Movie Review: Stardust

A boy promises his undeserving sweetheart a piece from a fallen star and crosses a wall to find it, landing himself in a fantasy land with flying pirates, evil witches and a dying monarch. When the fallen star turns out to be a girl, hormonal imbalances ensue.
The friend I was with at the theatre to watch this, tried to gnaw his way out through the back of his seat. I had no intention of leaving, however, so he bravely suffered until the end credits. He hated the movie, I sort of liked it. When The Brothers Grimm came out a while ago, it was a sympathetic failure and Stardust reminded me of it, even if this movie is a little less rambling. Both had big budgets, big names, big sets, big special effects, big prosthetics and a flailing ‘fantastic’ script. Stardust is based on a book by Neil Gaiman, a well-known writer of comics, books and the occasional movie. He loves spinning tales in the realms of folklore, myth and fable. I read the book and though I love his work on the Sandman comics, I must say it didn’t take long for the details of this story to evaporate from my memory. I think the movie didn’t stray too far from the source, but I am not sure if Gaiman or the screenwriters are to blame for the elements that don’t work.

There are fairytale aspects to Stardust that require a lot of suspension of disbelief and the audience needs to be charmed to go along with that. How much you enjoy the movie depends a lot on how much you consciously ‘give in’ to it. Since I wanted to like Stardust, I sort of did. Some leaps of imagination were too big for me to make though and the main one is a biggie: a fallen star turns out to be human. Her former existence as a heavenly body is never quite explained, and the shock at her change into a human isn’t really explored. Other aspects of the fantasy world don’t feel thought-out either, the pieces don’t hang together well and don’t form a cohesive, believable (within the movie) world. The flowery and somewhat flat dialogue doesn’t help much with getting you involved; the screenwriter from The Princess Bride should have been hired for a polish. Add to that a somewhat limp main character who has only marginal chemistry with the leading lady – a.k.a. the star – and I can see how people could easily resist the mild charms it does have and only notice the plot holes and pantomime acting. But if you are in a good mood and enjoy a sweet bit of overblown Hollywood nonsense, you could do a lot worse. And a moment of praise for Robert De Niro who pulls off a crossdressing gay pirate with flair. When he is finally outed to his rugged crew – the macho image he was nurturing shattered – their reaction is both hilarious and sweet. Let’s hope Disney will recruit them for Pirates of the Caribbean 4.

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