"This is the story of how Tristan becomes a man... To achieve it, he must win the heart of his one true love." From the beginning of Stardust, there is a distinct waft of The Princess Bride. The warm, old-man voice (Ian McKellan, of course) narrating the tale like a grandfather telling a bedtime story, the fantastical adventure dotted with romance and humor, and even the echoing words "his one true love" made me feel nostalgic for that magical love story of my youth.
As it happens, Stardust is a perfectly adequate Princess Bride-style tale, a bright and enthralling adventure with plenty of danger, magic and love. In the story, the aforementioned Tristan (played by the outrageously attractive Charlie Cox) is a lovestruck young man tasked with the challenge of bringing back a fallen star for the petulant, conceited object of his affections, Victoria (Sienna Miller). He meets the star, a luminescent woman named Yvaine (Claire Danes) who has landed near Tristan's sleepy village, and he determines to bring her to Victoria as proof of his adoration. That's just the tip of this fantasy iceberg, though, so read more
Meanwhile, there are others in hot pursuit of the fallen star. Lamia is (Michelle Pfeiffer) a cruel, vain witch who needs Yvaine's heart to remain young and beautiful. At the same time, the three living sons of Lord Stormhold (Peter O'Toole) seek out Yvaine in their competition to take over the throne. Together Tristan and Yvaine make their journey back to Victoria, with their followers close on their trail. They run into a supposedly cruel pirate captain (Robert DeNiro) who turns out to be quite a dandy, and a shady merchant (Ricky Gervais). During the scenes with the Lord Stormhold's living sons they are joined by the ghosts of their dead brothers, providing comedic relief in the form of a kind of haunting Greek chorus. In the end, Tristan must reexamine what it means to win the heart of his "one true love."
Of course, Stardust has some advantage over The Princess Bride when it comes to special effects helping to prop up such a fairy-tale land. The mystical world brings us candy-bright colors and video game visuals to breathlessly sweep us up in this adventure. Lamia looks at times like a statuesque testament to youth and beauty, all soft, golden hair and glittering eyes, and at other times like she was dug up from a deep grave. The performances are satisfying enough, though DeNiro makes for a very odd gay man. He seems like a straight person making fun of gay people by doing an extreme impression of what he assumes a gay man is like. I could have watched Charlie Cox for several more hours, however, so adorable are those soft brown eyes and that sweet manner.
The one annoying thing was a particular aspect of the ending, which I won't reveal here. It was as though everything could have been wrapped up quite nicely from the start if they'd just done one simple thing. It struck me as baffling, cheesy and ridiculous. I was somewhat surprised by it as well, having enjoyed the movie up until that point. Regardless of the ending, though, the movie is a splendid way to spend a couple hours in the starry, sparkly otherworld of Tristan and Yvaine.
Photos courtesy of Paramount