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Overall Rating

Awesome: 36.11%
Worth A Look40.28%
Average: 2.78%
Pretty Bad: 19.44%
Total Crap: 1.39%

9 reviews, 18 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"Not Anything My Heart Desires"
2 stars

Whimsical fairy tales have a lot to live up to if they’re going to stray the line between self-mocking and Grimm realism. It’s not a long list, but when its one that includes the likes of The Princess Bride, Shrek and even the Harry Potter series, it certainly doesn’t need to be. Those films have painted the genre into a corner and nearly anyone daring to step into the paint better be prepared to offer up a sensory dazzler, an emotional charmer or a new twist that isn’t going to draw comparison to its peers. Neil Gaiman is a name that has a lot of cache amongst fantasy seekers, but he has yet to find a filmmaker able to translate his worlds into a successful pastiche on the big screen. Matthew Vaughn had his own cache when he was tapped to replace Bryan Singer on the X-Men series, only to dropout and curse movie fans everywhere with the eventual substitution of Brett Ratner. Curses be damned and forgive me for saying so, but it may actually have been an upgrade.

Vaughn does get the chance to work with Magneto himself, Ian McKellen, to narrate the story’s front and back which begins with a lengthy prologue that establishes its languid pace from the start. Some years ago some guy had an affair with a gypsy’s prisoner (sounds more provocative than it actually is) that spawned a son left on his doorstep in the village of Wall. The boy grows up to be Tristan (Charlie Cox), who has a crush on Victoria (Sienna Miller), the most beautiful, if stuck-up, girl in all the land. Though promised to another, she gives the boy a chance and on their date see a falling star. If Tristan can retrieve it for her before she is proposed to, she will do him the honor instead.

Tristan is not the only one after this Perseid, now transformed into a beautiful girl named Yvaine (Claire Danes) with a silver lined wardrobe to accentuate her particles. Proving that bad things always come in threes, there’s a trio of witches led by Larnia (Michelle Pfeiffer) who need to cut out a star’s heart and make a meal of it to maintain their youthful appearance. There are also the sons of the King of Stormhold (Peter O’Toole) all fighting for control of the throne. After Secondus (Rupert Everett) is killed to prove that there can be only one, the dying King complicates matters by using a magical ruby as a trophy. Between Septimus (Mark Strong), Primus (Jason Flemyng) and Sextmus (Adam Buxton), whomever can retrieve the ruby and restore it to its former blood-red glory will wear the crown. As this is the same flying stone that plucked a certain star out of the sky, it seems likely a convergence of purpose is on the horizon for all involved.

The first of such occurs close to the one-hour mark after the numerous introductions, intentions and squabbling between Tristan and the held-against-her-will, Yvaine. Prayfully signaling a call to action or urgency, Vaughn has the score for the situation but not the skill to announce his presence as a set piece arbiter. For all the time used to set us up for the first of, what we assume will be, many confrontations – it’s a pretty anti-climactic affair that does more to establish the remainder of the film than the actual storyline.

With already enough colorful characters at the forefront, Stardust introduces us to another pair; one of whom we see not enough and the other a bit more than we need to. The first is Captain Shakespeare (Robert DeNiro) a gruff pirate leading a flying boat with a few secrets about his overly demanding exterior. The other is the story’s Miracle Max, a trader named Ferdy the Fence played with sardonic delight by the brilliant Ricky Gervais. His first scene with DeNiro would be right at home in either of his all-too-short-lived series, BBC’s original The Office and Extras. The humor is on such another stratosphere that it leaves the supposed ironic whimsy of other confrontations in the literal dust. Gervais gets to work his magic in one more brief scene before his services are discarded like the assistant making the boss look bad. We get a lot more DeNiro though in a scenery nipping performance that is alternately semi-amusing and downright depressing that the comic bug which once suited him so well in Midnight Run, Analyze This and Meet the Parents is now a full-blown contagion that has taken him from dancing inside the boxing ring to dancing in a dress.

The screenplay by Vaughn and Jane Goldman overplay Shakespeare’s dual identity and don’t know where to quit with the same punchlines in scene after scene. If only a little more time was spent on improving the chemistry between Tristan and Yvaine, we may have had a love story that is more Princess Bride and less The Sure Thing. Shakespeare himself could have adapted it with a self-writing quill and he still wouldn’t have improved on the presence of Charlie Cox. As our hero, he is an I.V. drip in a film desperate for a shot in the arm; a Baxter with delusions of being Prince Charming. The headier names in the cast are a tough obstacle to squeeze between as they get to relish their grand scenes of mischief, but no one becomes a hero by walking through life admiring the work of others.

Stardust’s ultimate leader though should be Matthew Vaughn and whatever obligations made him walk away from becoming a franchise player, it didn’t take long for him to try and open up his own. Why his Layer Cake served as such a breakthrough with critics when it showed little in the way of style or substance (the inevitability of working closely with Guy Ritchie) is beyond my understanding. Why were fanboys so certain he was the next coming instead of just an available director on the cheap who wasn’t named Tim Story? Stardust had little chance of standing up next to the classics even with a competent storyteller. Moviegoers really enjoy being read to in the dark, but even when they’re not children anymore they still like the reader to do the voices. Feel free to amuse us on occasion, but do us all a favor and commit to favoring one over the other so we can stay awake until the end.

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originally posted: 08/10/07 14:00:00
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User Comments

4/09/09 Justin I thought it was great. 5 stars
11/28/08 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 4 stars
3/19/08 Me, why? A load of old fluff. Fairy tales tries to be more than a fairy tale. 1 stars
1/07/08 Dina Kind of weird, but interesting. It won me over - Pfeiffer & De Niro are a hoot 4 stars
1/05/08 Ellen Engrossing plot, beautiful sets, and a touch of humor made it a fun ride. 4 stars
11/15/07 Alice Yawn... 2 stars
10/15/07 Keystra Williams I thought it was wonderful. Too bad it tanked. 5 stars
9/17/07 Susannah Strange, sweet & fun! 4 stars
9/02/07 Greybird Every word seconded. Thrilling originality. Intricate plots give grist for brain and heart. 5 stars
8/22/07 robin wonderfully entertaining from start to end. a must have for my home library 5 stars
8/20/07 Meschelle Too much going on. 3 stars
8/19/07 jcjs trite but not, a story, wonderful images, fresh, acting, wonderful, humorous, beautiful 5 stars
8/17/07 Nessus All of the parts fit together well, good pacing, good balance of comedy and drama 5 stars
8/15/07 Dan Charming, magical and fun. De Niro and Pfeiffer chew the scenery wonderfully. 4 stars
8/14/07 kelly Best movie of the year, and i'm not a fantasy fan! 5 stars
8/13/07 BrianWilly It felt like someone made a movie out of an old Sierra game, and that's a good thing. 5 stars
8/12/07 Bill Gosse Pretty bad. If you like it, you hate actual whimsy. 2 stars
8/11/07 Ole Man Bourbon One of the goofier movies I've ever seen. The Princess Retard. 3 stars
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  10-Aug-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 18-Dec-2007



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