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An Instant Cult Classic

One of the most anticipated movies of the summer, Stardust, lives up to expectations and delivers so much more. It succeeds as both a fantasy film and as a romantic comedy, which is a difficult feat. Some have compared it to the cult classic The Princess Bride, but while Stardust references other films, it is essentially unique.

Based on the graphic novel by Neil Gaiman and adapted to the screen by writer Jane Goldman and writer/director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake), Stardust is an adventure with a romantic soul. It tells the tale of sweet and na´ve Tristran (Charlie Cox) who is in love with a vain and self-involved woman named Victoria (Sienna Miller). When she's not accepting advances from the foppish Humphrey (Henry Cavill), she's stringing Tristran along.

One evening they witness a falling star, and Victoria issues him a challenge: if in one week he can retrieve the star and bring it back to her, she will agree to marry him. Problem is the star has fallen on the other side of the "heavily" guarded wall that borders their village, and which no one dares to cross. What the villagers don't know is that it's also the entrance to another dimension -- a magical kingdom known as Stormhold.

But Tristran, full of hope and eager to please, ventures forth. He finds the star, only to discover that it's actually a young woman, Yvaine (Claire Danes). Unfortunately, he's not the only person after the star's charms, which include immortality. The witch queen Lamia (played superbly by Michelle Pfeiffer) is also after her as is the (only-living) male successor to the thrown of Stormhold, Septimus (Mark Strong), who seeks the ruby necklace in her possession which will declare him the new king of the land.

Stardust is a charming movie that will please any number of audiences.
The acting and writing are both excellent and engaging. The chemistry between Danes and Cox is palpable and their exchanges are layered with great volleys full of witty dialogue. In one of the film's highpoints, Danes delivers a declaration on the definition of love with the same wide-eyed wonder she demonstrated in Romeo and Juliet. However, it is Robert De Niro as the pirate Captain Shakespeare and Pfeiffer who steal the show. Indeed, De Niro's scenes are worth watching the whole film for.

This movie was made to be a cult classic. There are several pop cultural references, including a shot lifted directly from Lord of the Rings that any fan can spot and a catchphrase from Ricky Gervais' hilarious HBO show "Extras" delivered by the man himself in a brief cameo. And while Stardust could have done without a particular sequence that bordered on saccharine, in which the characters predictably grow and bond, all set to music, it is still among the very best of films of 2007 and definitely the most refreshing.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars