Stardust (2007) – a fairytale for grown-ups

This is such a wonderful misfire of a movie, that despite all its flaws and weaknesses, it must be seen. Absolutely must be seen – both on the big and small screen. A fairy-tale for grown-ups, but nothing like Shrek or Ratatouille. Released in the peak of Summer, even though it’s got so much romance, it’s a better fir during the holidays or on Valentine’s. This film is actually aimed at grown-ups, but is comes from such a rickety universe, you have to leave a lot of hang-ups at the door, otherwise the movie will fall apart in ten minutes. And you really, really want to sit through the whole thing.

The cast is very strong – with many cameos stealing their scenes and leaving you wanting more. Peter O’Toole, Sienna Miller, Ian McKellan, Ricky Gervais, Robert De Niro. They’re all wonderful, but their characters and actions are filled with so much whimsy and silliness that you just can’t believe these serious actors agreed to do this. And yet … everyone looks like they’re having fun.

And how can you not? The film is a modern fairy-tale – with multiple plots about throne ascension, sibling rivalry, witches, princesses, village idiots, potions and flying ships. It’s captivating, and at the same time – very serious. I don’t know of many children that will be entertained by this film. There are gruesome scenes, and there are despicably evil characters. At the same time, you got protagonists who truly believe in their abilities, in their strength. Who will go to the edge of the world for their love. Who are endlessly good and kind, which is so hard to find these days.

And then there are sets, costumes and effects. Elaborate chase scenes, wicked magical battles between witches, amazing castle interiors, rustic villages, bumbling medieval towns. All this goes beyond eye candy – there are characters and messages there, and each such scene either introduces a new hero/villain, or pushes the plot further. So what’s wrong with the movie?

Maybe you have to be in a really good, jovial mood to see it. Maybe when it matches an evil prince with a kind villager in the same scene, you somehow start seeing the prince’s point of view. Maybe the ‘good’ characters are so foreign to us nowadays, we cannot identify with them. Or maybe magic-filled films should not bother with issues of politics, wars, racism. But wait, Harry Potter can get away with a few morals here and there. Is it more grounded than Stardust? Perhaps.

This film is pretty much out of this world. It exists in a universe that’s difficult to get into, and difficult to maintain. If you can ‘get it’, then you will enjoy the ride, the references, the flashy characters. If not, you’ll walk away wishing this film was animated, or a lot shorter.

I enjoyed Stardust. I just didn’t enjoy it with the same silly abandon as most of its characters did. Although I have to admit, Ricky Gervais, Robert De Niro, and Michelle Pfeiffer absolutely nailed their characters, and still managed to give a witch, a captain, and a trader a completely new persona, a new perspective. Stardust does a lot of that – taking familiar fairy-tale archetypes, and trying, TRYING to turn them around. In most cases, it worked and stayed charming and idyllic. In a few cases, I just didn’t get it.

This film will eventually find its audience on DVD. Too bad people didn’t flock to theaters. Must be the timing.


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