A review of “Stardust” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ** 1/2

Rating: PG-13 for violence and mature themes

Run Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes

 

 

All hail the consummate pros of cinema. Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro gleefully chew up the scenery in this ethereal and comic fantasy that finally loses steam in the last act.

You know you’re destined for superfluous sap when lovesick pup Tristan Thorne (Charlie Cox) woos the fickle Victoria (Sienna Miller) by promising to gift her with a real star, thus proving his undying devotion. Once Tristan has set out on his celestial-seeking journey, venturing out of the realm of humans and into a supernatural kingdom, the fallen star appears in the form of a beautiful and poised enchantress called Yvaine (Claire Danes).

Tristan isn’t the only one with an interest in Yvaine. A gaggle of evil witches led by eldest sister Lamia (Pfeiffer) seeks to cut out the star’s heart so they can ingest it and prolong their tenuous hold on a fleeting youth.

As Tristan and Yvaine attempt the return trip home they encounter all manner of men, including the fearsome Captain Shakespeare (De Niro), a ruthless marauder who secretly loves poetry and dressing in women’s clothing, and a merciless trio of princes who need to claim the star to mount the throne that will rule their kingdom.

The result is a bloated, mixed bag of triumphs and failures. Pfeiffer is glorious as a wrinkly temptress who’s destined for a sun-spotted hell, all bitchy croniness and spot-on comic timing.  De Niro is positively delicious as a cross-dressing crazy, his crack delivery poised for maximum wit.

A Greek chorus of dead princes works when it shouldn’t; a bevy of bluescreen techniques should work and don’t. Awkward transitions jockey with bright dramatic flashes suspended in time. Floating pirate ships recall Terry Gilliam’s “Adventures of Baron Munchausen” while malevolent kings and spiteful sorcerers are evocative of classic fairy tales of yore.

Danes and Cox are blessed with a beautiful chemistry that keeps the sparks flying even when their story is weighted down with silly scripting and a clunky climax. Not your mother’s fairy tale but it could be yours.