In the Victorian village of Wall, a young man pines for the local beauty. To win her affections he promises to bring back a shooting star that fell to earth in the nearby woods. But this means crossing the wall itself – guarded for centuries to keep curious humans from the magical world of Stormhold beyond. Tristan (Charlie Cox) is knocked for six, though, when the star turns out to be Yvaine (Claire Danes), a beautiful girl who’s fallen to earth in a bad mood and has no intention of going with him. But a wicked sorceress (Pfeiffer) and the feuding princes of Stormhold want the star too and unleash all sorts of magic and villainy to find her.
From the casting to the scenery, the script to the special effects, Stardust is hugely entertaining. Danes and Cox are a winning combination, feisty and feckless respectively, yet immediately winsome, bringing depth and credibility to a larger than life adventure. Cameos come and go, from Peter O’Toole’s dying King of Stormhold, to Ricky Gervais’ Office-like wheeler-dealer merchant. Yet it’s the unknown Cox and the unstarry star Clare Danes who carry the film – with Pfeiffer’s beauty-and-a-beast sorceress vamping things appealingly.
Visually splendid, Stardust has a Lord of the Rings-style affection for sweepingly stunning landscapes. Better still, though, are the visual jokes and tricks that cascade throughout the film. The feuding princes, popping each other off one by one, reappear as monochrome ghosts. Harry Potter’s Mr Weasley, Mark Williams, milks every comic nuance from his hapless turn as a goat suddenly turned into a human. And even De Niro’s Captain Shakespeare isn’t all he seems.
Stardust will certainly entertain the kids. But it’s adults who’ll gain the most – from Pfeiffer and De Niro playing against type to risqué moments and potshots at society’s fixation with looks and image. Broadly and blackly funny, Stardust has an imaginative brio that breathes freshness into every set-up
Stardust’s topsy-turvy world is an entrancing creation. If you think a fairytale should be neat and tidy, this isn’t it. But let the magic cast its spell and you’ll be rewarded with a film that merits several very shiny stars.