Once upon a time, tales of princes, pirates, witches and unicorns used to captivate us. Sadly, those days departed with our childhood; however, thanks to Stardust, you too can recapture the essence of those innocent bygone days of wonderment. Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake) and based on a graphic novel by Neil Gaiman, who also had a hand in penning the screenplay, Stardust is billed as a fairy tale for adults. The movie draws heavily on a multitude of fantasy influences, not the least of which are those spun by the Brothers Grimm. Complete with the aforementioned menagerie of fantastical players, perhaps the greatest spell this movie casts is the one it weaves over the audience.
The story revolves around Tristan Thorne (Cox) who lives in the English town of Wall, so named because of the stone structure that lies on its border, separating the land’s inhabitants from a mysterious realm where mortals are forbidden to enter — a land known as Stormhold. Of course, this didn’t stop Tristan’s dad from weaseling his way across years earlier; an event which led to Tristan’s advent on the scene. Fixated upon winning the hand of the comely Victoria (Miller), Tristan pledges to cross the wall and bring back the remnants of a falling star seen shooting from the heavens into the land beyond, and from there Tristan’s adventure begins.
Upon arrival on Earth, the star takes the human form of Yvaine (Danes) and her capture, by either the surviving sons of Stormhold’s dying king (O’Toole), or the evil witch Lamia (played with screen-eating aplomb by Pfeiffer) will yield the throne for the successful prince, or youth and immortality for the witch and her sisters. As Tristan’s quest unfolds, he and Yvaine encounter a hoard of lightening-harvesting sky pirates captained by De Niro, who practically steals the show with his comedic portrayal of a swash buckling swordsman with a secret passion for chiffon and the can-can — a performance that had me giggling like a schoolgirl throughout.
Vaughn keeps the story moving forward at a brisk pace, never allowing things to get bogged down in sentimentality or overly drawn out scenes. In many respects Stardust harkens back to Rob Reiner’s 1987 movie The Princess Bride which also managed to find the perfect blend of comedy, fantasy and romance and wrap it all up in an enchanting fairy tale that could be enjoyed equally by young and old alike. With cameos by Ricky Gervais, David Kelly and Rupert Everett, Stardust will envelope you in its charms and leave you feeling like a child all over again and reassure you that the sense of wonderment and enchantment still glows, even within the hearts of jaded adults.
EXTRAS **** Now, this is more like it – the original DVD release of this film was very vanilla indeed, but this Blu-ray special edition is choc-full of goodies. Kicking off is an audio commentray with director Vaughn and co-writer Goldman. Then we get an Crossing the Wall: The Making of Stardust, an hour's worth of behind-the-scenes featurette broken up into the following sections: The Quest For The Stone, A Portal To Another World, What Do Stars Do? They Shine, A Quest Of Enormous Importance, and Have You Seen A Falling Star?. There's also a featurette called Nothing is True: Behind the Scenes of Stardust with Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess (who illustrated the original novel); five deleted scenes; a five-minute blooper reel; and the trailer.