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Paramount Home Video presents
Stardust (2007)

"A philosopher once asked, 'Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?' Pointless, really... Do the stars gaze back? Now that's a question."
- Narrator (Ian McKellen)

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: December 19, 2007

Stars: Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer
Other Stars: Robert DeNiro, Ricky Gervais, Sienna Miller, Peter O'Toole, Mark Strong, Rupert Everett
Director: Matthew Vaughn

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for fantasy violence and some risqué humor
Run Time: 02h:07m:32s
Release Date: December 18, 2007
UPC: 097363475620
Genre: adventure


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+BB+ B-

DVD Review

The film review is by Mark Zimmer.

As J.R.R. Tolkien observed, telling tales of faerie is a tricky business; doing so for adults is even more so. Only rarely do such efforts succeed without wandering into self-parody or taking themselves far too seriously. Noted comics writer Neil Gaiman deftly walked that tightrope with his novel (and graphic novel) Stardust, which was fun without being postmodern or ironic. That sense of wonder and delight comes to the screen in marvelous fashion in this delightful adaptation.

The story is fairly complicated, but its central conceit is the notion of a wall separating the little English village of Wall from the magical kingdom of Stormhold. Young Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox), inept and ridiculous, tries to woo village beauty Victoria (Sienna Miller), and she mockingly agrees to marry him if he will retrieve the fallen star they've just observed. Taking his task seriously, Tristan sets out to the other side of the Wall, where the star fell. But since it landed in a magical realm, the star takes the form of Yvaine (Claire Danes), and Tristan endeavors to bring her back to Victoria. He's not the only one with an interest in her, however, for centuries-old witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her sisters know that they can regain their youth by cutting out Yvaine's heart and devouring it. At the same time, a group of fratricidal princes are in pursuit of her because the necklace she wears holds the key to obtaining the throne of Stormhold. Adventures ensue, with magic, swashbuckling and cross-dressing flying pirates led by Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro) standing in the way.

Although many of the elements here are familiar, they are combined in a wholly original way that makes the story fresh and constantly entertaining. There is a sharply British wit evident throughout, and the dialogue is crisply funny, and often delivered with hilarious aplomb. A definite highlight is a largely-improvised session of bargaining between Captain Shakespeare and Ferdy the Fence (Ricky Gervais of the British version of The Office). The production design makes excellent use of practical scenery and effects, subtly combined with computer graphics to keep the magic grounded and feeling as if it's an everyday occurrence in Stormhold. The central romance works exceedingly well thanks to the superb chemistry between Cox and Danes.

Director Matthew Vaughn somehow managed to assemble a dream cast here, headed by De Niro, who at first appears to be wildly overacting, though it's soon revealed that there's a reason behind that. Pfeiffer is more than a good sport in her willingness both to be made up as an aged crone, and to poke fun at the character's vanity at her restored youth. That gives rise to some well-realized moments where she desperately tries to maintain her beauty, only to cause herself different problems. Peter O'Toole makes a brief appearance as the dying king of Stormhold, while an unbilled Ian McKellen serves as narrator. Danes is excellent, moving effortlessly from a innocent naivete to the wisdom of an ancient star, depending on the circumstances. Cox in all likelihood will not remain an unknown for long, because he does a superb job of holding down the lead and giving the character a credible arc that is highly satisfying.

There's a pervasive sense of whimsy present throughout, though it's measured so that it never becomes annoying or cloying. Particularly good are the deceased princes, who follow the ever-decreasing number of survivors around like a spectral peanut gallery, commenting on the action and trying ineffectually to influence events. The climax is built up to through a series of intercut chases that would do D.W. Griffith proud in the cumulative suspense. Comic bits such as the ridiculous behavior of a goat made human by Lamia keep the sense of fun going even when there are dark thematic elements at work, as is the case in the best fairy tales. Unabashedly romantic, Stardust is highly entertaining and enjoyable from beginning to end.

Joel Cunningham adds:

Mark gets it just about right. I didn't love everything about this movie, but it's certainly one of the most flat-out entertaining things in years, overflowing with too many ideas to make sense, but drawing you in all the same. It's very British qualities are Gaiman's hallmark, and probably what keeps this kind of stuff from appealing to a wider audience. Sometimes it's even a little much for me, and I more or less enjoyed Gaiman-inspired creations like MirrorMask and Neverwhere, next to which Stardust looks mainstream in comparison.

The hope was obviously to create a timeless fantasy on the level of A Princess Bride, but this one is too amused by itself by half to capture that film's beating heart (and, I suppose, devour it?). That probably doesn't matter, as it's likely to gather a lot of admirers anyway—so much is going on, there's something here for everyone, provided they don't have a problem with the stuff that's there for everyone else.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Stardust has the look of an epic fantasy, but the transfer doesn't quite hold up. Overall, it's fairly strong, but many darker sequences look a bit murky and grainy and detail is noticeably lacking in some long-distance shots. The color palette doesn't quite burst off the screen the way you might expect; even some of the scenes with lots of magic spells flying around look a little dull. It's nothing terrible, but it doesn't shine the way the best new-release transfers do.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, French, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: This is an action-packed mix, with near-constant surround use and a strong presentation of the robust musical score. A little too strong, in fact—at times, dialogue seems a bit soft in comparison to the rousing questing music. Still, in general you get what you want out of a mix like this—snazzy directional effects and lots of rear channel action.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Blooper reel
Extras Review: This fantasy film receives far fewer supplements than its more serious genre brethren, but there's more here than you might think from a quick glance through the menus. Aside from the typicals (five ho-hum deleted scenes, a chuckle-worthy blooper reel), there's a quite generally decent 30-minute making-of piece covers the project from its inception in Neil Gaiman's novel, the adaptation process, casting, and production, with heavy emphasis on the special effects sequences. It moves quickly, but it's also free of the shameless self promotion that pops up in a lot of these things.

There's also a theatrical trailer, which does a marvelously poor job of selling the movie.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

A fantasy faux-epic that walks a fine line between action, romance, and genre parody, Stardust is plenty entertaining, but it's also a little exhausting. Still, it's one of the more charming releases in recent memory, even if you can feel it's trying a little too hard to win your heart.

 


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