Fan­tas­tic love story

‘Star­dust’ has some­thing for view­ers of all ages

The Covington News - - NEWTON @ PLAY -

Not since 1987’s “ The Princess Bride” has a fan­tasy film so tick­led both my funny bone and my imag­i­na­tion.

Full of swash­buck­ling pi­rates, damsels in dis­tress, witch­craft, evil princes and dash­ing he­roes, “ Star­dust” is a rare treat in a genre which is in dan­ger of be­com­ing bogged down with fan­tasy films which rely too much on spe­cial ef­fects and not enough on classical sto­ry­telling to cap­ture the au­di­ence’s at­ten­tion.

While there are cer­tainly spe­cial ef­fects in “ Star­dust” ( lots of mag­i­cal trans­for­ma­tions and sor­cery), it is the snarky tongue- in- cheek hu­mor lay­ered over a solid plot line full of in­trigue which re­ally makes the film stand apart from such medi­ocre fan­tasy epics as last win­ter’s “ Eragon.”

But this is not your typ­i­cal fairy­tale where the hero and hero­ine share a chaste kiss at the end of the film. Rather the hero of our tale, Tris­tan ( Char­lie Cox, “ Casanova”) is the prod­uct of a one- night- stand his fa­ther had as an ad­ven­tur­ous young man with a beau­ti­ful wo­man held cap­tive by an evil old hag.

Young Tris­tan is raised by his fa­ther in the quaint English vil­lage of Wall, named so for a mys­te­ri­ous wall which lies just out­side the vil­lage bound­aries. Un­be­knownst to the vil­lagers of Wall, the wall sep­a­rates the real world from the mag­i­cal king­dom of Stormhold where the old king ( Peter O’Toole) lies on his deathbed.

Ac­cord­ing to the king­dom’s tra­di­tion, a prince can only be crowned king af­ter he has killed all of his brothers. Un­sat­is­fied with his re­main­ing sons ( three have al­ready been killed) O’Toole de­cides to test them ad­di­tion­ally by cast­ing his ruby neck­lace into the sky. Un­be­knownst to him the neck­lace knocks a star named Yvaine from her place in the sky.

Yvaine’s fall from the sky is wit­nessed by Tris­tan and an an­cient witch named Lamia ( Michelle Pfeif­fer, “ Hair­spray”) who both set out to cap­ture it for very dif­fer­ent rea­sons. Tris­tan im­petu­ously prom­ises the star to the vil­lage beauty Vic­to­ria ( Si­enna Miller, “ Fac­tory Girl”) and so crosses the wall to fetch it. Lamia, how­ever, wants to con­sume the star’s heart in or­der to re­store her­self and her two witch sis­ters to their for­mer youth and beauty.

Yvaine, played by Claire Danes (“ The Fam­ily Stone”), at first wants only to get back home but soon finds her­self drawn to the young Tris­tan who trans­forms through­out the film from a some­what nerdy shop boy to a dash­ing swash­buck­ler who bravely de­fends her honor.

Though the two leads, Cox and Danes, give gen­er­ally strong per­for­mances, they are out­shined by their fel­low, more ex­pe­ri­enced ac­tors. Pfeif­fer’s por­trayal of the 400- year- old- Lamia — who is at times slightly campy and more than a lit­tle ter­ri­fy­ing — is the clear star of the film.

O’Toole’s brief cameo as the cor­rupt and crafty old king is a de­light. Robert De Niro’s por­trayal of the pi­rate Cap­tain Shake­speare, who has a pen­chant for dress­ing in drag and danc­ing the can- can, is a hoot and a half.

Di­rected by Matthew Vaughn (“ Layer Cake”), the film’s pac­ing moves briskly along from start to fin­ish. The lighter comedic scenes in­volv­ing Yvaine, Tris­tan and Shake­speare are in­ter­spersed with darker omi­nous scenes of Lamia and her ri­val, the malev­o­lent prince Sep­ti­mus ( Mark Strong, “ Tris­tan & Isolde”) — who is also de­ter­mined to cap­ture Yvaine — as they close in on their prey.

While scenes of frat­ri­cide and dark witch­craft prob­a­bly mean that “ Star­dust” is a lit­tle too much for the “ Dora the Ex­plorer” set to han­dle, this film oth­er­wise has some­thing to of­fer all age groups.



Paramount Pic­tures

Young lovers: “ Star­dust.”

Si­enna Miller and Char­lie Cox head up a tal­ented cast in Matthew Vaughn’s adap­ta­tion of Neil Gaiman’s

Rachel Oswald

Film critic

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