Complete A-Z list

Stardust (DQ)


Stars: Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mark Strong, Robert De Niro, Sienna Miller, Ian McKellen (voice)

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Stardust would like to be a fantasy hit along the lines of The Princess Bride, a somewhat overrated film but a classic compared to this. A humourless script, and direction that gives the story no tightness, narrative sweep or lightness of touch leaves its audience without any sort of adrenalin rush.

Times Gone By: residents of The Wall, a small English town, are not allowed to go through the surrounding Wall that gives the town its name and cross the fields to they know not what beyond. 'What' turns out to be Stormhold, a sort of fairy-tale kingdom whose ruler (Peter O'Toole) is slowly dying, while his seven sons compete to kill each other off.

An intrepid villager, Dunstan (a brief but bright performance by Ben Barnes), goes to Stormhold's bizarre market and impregnates a mystery girl (Kate Magowan) there, who's held captive, but manages to smuggle the resultant baby to him nine months later.

Back at the castle 18 years on, O'Toole is finally expiring. With three brothers down, snooty Secundus (Rupert Everett) soon to join them - the resulting ghosts provide a black-and-white 'Greek chorus' to the action - and their sister vanished, the king flings his royal ruby into space, where it pales and turns into a falling star, which Dunstan's son Tristan (Cox) promises to get for the girl (Miller) he adores.

'Only he of royal blood,' croaks the king, 'can restore the ruby.' Can you see where this is going? Well, of course you can, but it takes 128 minutes to get there, and first you must meet the leader (Pfeiffer) of a trio of witches plucked straight from Macbeth, who are after the heart of the star in human form (Danes) to restore their youth. The now last-surviving prince, Septimus (Strong) also wants Danes - for the now-white ruby round her neck.

Cox and Danes get captured by sky pirates, led by their secretly gay cap'n (De Niro!), while Strong keeps track of their progress, and Pfeiffer storms round the countryside like an advert for Scottish Widows gone to the bad. Everyone ends up at The Wall, by which time the film has gone there as well.

Cox is just about OK, but Danes is a combative actress unsuited to this role. A fight between Cox and a dead man at the climax is cleverly done, while Ricky Gervais, as Ferdy the Fence, will delight or annoy according to taste, before he is mercifully turned into a human chicken.

David Quinlan

USA/UK/Iceland 2007. UK Distributor: Paramount. Colour by deluxe.
128 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 17 Oct 2007