Monday, January 14, 2008

Stardust, the Movie: An Adult Fairy Tale

There are some fantasy adventure films, based on literary classics like Lord of the Rings that keep you on the edge of your seat and challenge your imagination, while there are others that are unbelievably boring and put you to sleep. Stardust falls into neither of these categories, but falls somewhere in the middle. It is an adventurous film that holds your interest and attention, but doesn’t quite live up to your expectations. Nevertheless, it is an entertaining and enjoyable diversion.

Stardust is a whimsical fantasy based on the popular novel by Neil Gaiman. The fairy tale begins with Ian McKellen (Lord of the Rings) telling the story of a young man who has a yen to leave his hometown, the sleepy English village of Wall, and cross the forbidden cobblestone wall to enter into the strange, mystical land of Stormhold. Successfully distracting the gate guard, the young man enters into this forbidden world, where he becomes intimately involved with a desirable young woman, who claims to be a captive princess. Nine months later, he receives a basket containing the fruit of their union – his newborn son.

Fast forward eighteen years, and we see a naive and awkward peasant teenage boy, Tristan (Charlie Cox), who is unsuccessfully attempting to win the affections of a self-centered beautiful maiden (Sienna Miller). When Tristan finally manages to get her alone, together they see a falling star, which he promises to retrieve for her, to win her love. Like his father before him, Trystan also crosses the forbidden wall to collect his meteorite. Once there, he discovers that his fallen star is actually a celestial beauty in human form named Yvaine (Claire Danes.)

There are others who are after the beautiful Yvaine as well, including the King's (Peter O'Toole) scheming sons for whom only her secret powers can secure the throne, and an ugly old witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), who seeks to steal Yvane’s eternal youth and beauty for herself and sister witches, so it is up to Tristan to protect her.

In the course of their adventures in the mystical world, the couple encounters Captain Shakespeare (Robert DeNiro), a pirate who commands a flying ship, and assists them in their escape. While he pretends to be tough, putting on a gruff exterior, the Captain actually has a gentler, softer side. However, the director goes overboard on this, when in one scene, we are shown Captain Shakespeare frolicking about his cabin in women’s clothing. Of course, this is done for laughs, but I found this scene distasteful, offensive, and unnecessary. In fact, I found this pirate ship escapade to be a distraction that doesn’t seem to fit in well with the rest of the film.

The two leading actors, Claire Danes and Charlie Cox, their innocence and their romance are what made this film work for me. Charlie Cox did an excellent job portraying Tristan, the naïve, awkward, and lovesick peasant boy who grows into a confident young man, who learns how to love and what it is all about. As Yvaine, Claire Danes assists her leading man with this transformation as she herself effectively portrays a spirited and cranky star who learns to share her radiant inner light with him. Both follow their heart’s desires and go where the journey of life takes them, which lifts them to beautiful new heights. This is a film worth seeing, although it falls short of what it could have been.

Stardust is an adult fairy tale which I do not recommend for children or for young teens. In addition to the cross-dressing scene, it contains violence, a flamboyant homosexual in one scene, a child conceived out of wedlock, sexual innuendos, and implied sexual relationships between unmarried people. It is rated PG-13 for violence and risqué humor.


Julie D. said...

Having read the book, I would also add the caution to the review that some movie reviewers mentioned when the movie debuted. Stardust was considerably altered for the movie script to make it PG13. The book is "R" rated period, as Neil Gaiman fans (of which I am one) would attest. Parents of teenaged Stardust fans should not consider that seeing the movie is a safe preview for reading the book.

EegahInc said...

This movie tries really hard to be The Princess Bride, but doesn't quite make it. I think the reason is Gaiman's compulsive need to appear subversive (i.e. the cross-dressing air pirate, oooo, isn't that just so shocking and unexpected.) even when the story doesn't need it. That being said, this is still one of my favorite 2007 releases out of the ones I've managed to see so far.

P.S. to julie d. Despite my comment, I like Gaiman, too. His books and comics were a must-have back in my college days and I still try to catch anything he puts out.

Subvet said...

The wife and I just got through watching this flick. We both give it an enthusiastic thumbs up for being entertaining and amusing. That said, I would question the PG-13 rating. Felt is was more worthy of a soft "R" myself due to the already mentioned sexual content.

But maybe I'm just showing my age there.

Bottom line, good flick for a few laughs and forgetting the cares of the world over a couple of hours.

Lisa said...

I'm sorry ~ I don't mean to be a stinker, but, seriously, expecting high moral content is not a function of age. As Catholics, we should not expect a higher standard for our children than we do for ourselves. Why would you want to watch a movie with poor moral content or sexual under-or-overtones? How does it improve you? Sure, this limits the movies you can watch, but that's Hollywood's deficiency, unfortunately. You don't have to cave to it. This movie disappointed me, because it was one I thought I could, in good conscience, go see. Bummer!

Michelle said...

Just saw this last night. I agree that it "could have been" a great movie - on par with The Princess Bride - except for the "risque humor" which was quite unnecessary, and the sexual overtones which take for granted that sex outside of marriage is normal and quite expected. There were also quite a number of details that didn't make sense: why would the slave princess' owner allow her to send her baby to another world (or did she manage to hide her pregnancy?), why did the king's men not scour the realm searching for his missing daughter?, how did all the other stars in the sky know the fate of the last star that fell to earth but Yvaine was completely unaware of her danger?

I do think that the sword dueling scene between the hero and a dead prince was among the top ten best duel scenes in modern movies.

The overall themes of growing up, being heroic, and finding true love where you didn't expect it, do make the film worth watching (for adults and perhaps older teens). The loose ends and sexual innuendos however prevent the film from achieving greatness. I'd say it was "pretty good."

crmcgregor said...

I'm sorry, but really? There are sexual innuendos in Disney movies? This movie was no worse, dare I say, better in terms of content than many other PG-13 movies. It's a fantasy story and the innuendos and "risqué" humor are nothing out of the norm for today's society. These are things everyone is simply going to have to encounter. Now for the younger children, that time can wait, I agree, but for a young teen, what happens in this movie is nothing compared to what is encountered in everyday life in middle school or the first years of high school.

James said...

Really felt the story was innocent, enchanting and great fun to watch. Don't think I'll be able to get over seeing De Niro in a dress for some time, though lol