The first seen, and most enjoyed, of Saturday night’s movie double-header, was the new Matthew Vaughn film, STARDUST, which is based on the eponymous Neil Gaiman novel. Vaughn was heavily involved in Guy Ritchie’s LOCK, STOCK, AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS as well as SNATCH, and made his directorial debut in 2004, with the excellent LAYER CAKE.
STARDUST has recieved a lot of appropriate comparisons to THE PRINCESS BRIDE, as fans of Rob Reiner’s masterpiece will probably enjoy this film. The story is set in England, in the mid 19th century, in the village of Wall. Wall is named, naturally, for the long wall that runs alongside the town, and its one opening is guarded day and night by a 97 year old man with a staff, to keep the Brits from entering the legendary, magical land on the other side. A young man named Tristan, in order to win the hand of a girl in his town, vows to cross the wall to find a fallen star, and will bring the rock back to her for a ring.
On his journey, he encounters evil princes and kindly pirates, witches both beautiful and hideous, and he finds true love, so to speak. The story is, as with most fairy tales, somewhat predictable, but the movie finds its value, like with THE PRINCESS BRIDE, in the fact that the easily forseen ending is so much fun to get to. The world on the other side of the wall, Stormhold, is a fun one to adventure in, and Tristan’s coming of age story probably couldn’t be more enjoyable.
The primary villains are the prince Septimus (played by the fantastic Mark Strong), and the witch Lamia (played by Michelle Pfeiffer, who must be the best looking 49 year old woman on Earth). Both chew the scenery a bit, clearly relishing their roles as greedy, evil types. Claire Danes plays the fallen star well, with all the eternal nobility one would expect from a heavenly body. Robert DeNiro has a large role as a captain of a flying pirate ship, and Ricky Gervais has a smaller one as a merchant, and both are wonderful and hysterically funny.
Mrs Thursday’s father cannot abide anything even remotely fantastical. If it doesn’t happen in reality as we know it, he will not willingly watch it. That being the case, I really recommend STARDUST for anyone out there, except for him. Some of the most fun to be had at the theater this summer.