A sprawling comic-fantasy adventure, Matthew Vaughn’s Stardust entertains due to the multitude of left-field elements Neil Gaiman throws into his story, even though the basic plot is disappointingly obvious from the get-go.
Still, things are reasonably well-handled by director Vaughn (Layer Cake), who brings together a number of characters and dangling plot threads into a reasonably coherent 2 hours.
The story, from Gaiman´s graphic novel, borrows elements from all over the fantasy and sci-fi genres, but the light-hearted nature of the film, which often delves into full-fledged comedy, most noticeably brings to mind Rob Reiner´s The Princess Bride. Fantasy fans should be pleased.
Witches, ghosts, princes, and a fallen star traverse a multitude of dimensions as our story begins with young Tristan (Charlie Cox), who sets out to win the heart of unsympathetic Victoria. His plan? To track down a fallen star and bring it back to her.
Little does he realize that the fallen star is actually a woman, Yvaine (Claire Danes), and she possesses two things that a variety of other characters are searching for: her heart will bring eternal youth to a trio of witches headed by Michelle Pfeiffer, and the ruby around her neck will grant the kingdom of dying emperor Peter O´Toole to one of his heirs, who seem to be killing each other off with alarming ease.
Might Tristan realize Victoria´s true nature and fall in love with Yvaine? Could he actually be a prince and future king? You´ll know after a curiously straightforward prologue which leaves little to the imagination and little mystery to the remainder of the film.
The supporting cast helps significantly: Pfeiffer makes for a terrific witch, and Robert de Niro is a lot of fun in an all-too-brief turn as a transvestite (?) sky pirate (even if the role seems intended for Robin Williams). O’Toole lends some gravitas to his dying king, and Ricky Gervais steals a couple scenes with his usual shtick.
The leads, however, leave something to be desired; Cox is just OK, lacking the charisma of a true swashbuckling hero, and Danes, with her over-the-top facial contortions, is pretty awful as the fallen star, in stark contrast with her recent compelling turn in Evening.
Flick is never really all that great, but a diverting and fun experience nonetheless.