The sophmore directorial effort from Matthew Vaughn is something rather unexpected, especially from the producer of Guy Ritchie's films ("Snatch".) Based on the novel by famed fantasy author Neil Gaiman, "Stardust" focuses on Tristan (Charlie Cox), who has a deep crush on Victoria (Sienna Miller), who he doesn't think he's good enough for. Still, he bravely follows his heart and pushes forward, despite the fact that he doesn't fit in with her crowd. When he leaves his job in order to walk Victoria home, he ends up losing his job as a result.
When she says that she's thinking about marrying another guy, he tells her he'll travel to the ends of the world if it means she would consider him. She tells him that, if he's able to bring her a fallen shooting star (as they watch a shooting star), she'll be his. So, he sets out and crosses a magical wall into the world of Stormhold, where finding something like a fallen shooting star isn't exactly out of the question.
The shooting star they happened to see has fallen in Stormhold, and its name is Yvaine (Claire Danes). While Tristan reaches her first and tries to convince her to come back with him in order to win over Victoria, she is not exactly pleased to have been taken out of the sky, and her temper leads her to not go anywhere too easily - at least until he produces a way to get her back into the sky.
Elsewhere, the witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) tries to track the two down in order to get her hands on Yvaine, as if the witch cuts out the fallen star's heart, she will gain eternal life. There's also one of the King of Stormhold's sons, who believe that Yvaine is their key to the kingdom. While she wasn't exactly thrilled with the idea of going with Tristan, she quickly finds out that he's really the only person to save her.
"Stardust" isn't "The Princess Bride", but in an era when genuinely enjoyable and intelligent fantasy is a rarity, "Stardust" is still awfully good fun. The performances are especially good - Pfeiffer is delightfully evil and Danes hasn't been this engaging in a while. Also impressive is Charlie Cox, an actor with a limited resume who gives a charming performance here, and has very good chemistry with Danes. Robert Deniro also gives an amusing performance in what is essentially a cameo. Technically, the film is stellar, with lovely visual effects (and the effects are used to support the story, not the other way around) and gorgeous 'scope cinematography by Ben Davis (who also worked with Vaughn on his directorial debut, the very different "Layer Cake".) This is apparently the film that Vaughn chose to do instead of "X-Men 3". While I wouldn't have thought of him for this material, he certainly
"Stardust" is a little thin plot-wise (the 127 minute film could have been trimmed by a good 10-15 minutes), but the picture does manage to create a fantasy world that's easy to get wrapped up in, magical moments and memorable characters. There's even a few laughs. The film isn't for the youngest viewers (too scary for kids), but older children and adults will appreciate it. The picture was given a promotional campaign that didn't seem to know how to sell the movie, and despite good reviews, the film didn't get the kind of audience it deserved theatrically. Hopefully, the film will gain a wider following on DVD.
VIDEO: "Stardust" is presented by Paramount in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Presentation quality remained quite good throughout the show, as sharpness and detail were mostly first rate. Some slight edge enhancement was spotted in a couple of scenes, but the presentation was otherwise smooth and clean, with no artifacting or print flaws. Some minor grain was seen at times, but this is likely an intentional element of the cinematography. Colors looked bright and nicely saturated, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is perfectly adequate, with a mild amount of surround use for effects, ambience and score. One would expect a little more activity from a film like this, but surrounds do kick in nicely during the most intense sequences. Otherwise, much of the audio is spread out across the front speakers. Audio quality was fine, with crisp, full dialogue and well-recorded effects.
EXTRAS: A 30-minute "making of" documentary ("Good Omens", 5:30 of deleted scenes, 5 minutes of bloopers and the trailer.
Final Thoughts: "Stardust" could stand a few minor trims, but the picture is otherwise a highly enjoyable fantasy film with some great performances. The DVD offers very good audio/video quality, as well as a few minor extras. Recommended.
The Film B+