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Stardust (****)
directed by Matthew Vaughn
written by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, from an illustrated novel by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess
Principal Cast
Charlie Cox -- Tristran
Ian McKellen -- Narrator (voice)
Bimbo Hart -- Young Scientist
Alastair MacIntosh -- Victorian Academic
Ben Barnes -- Young Dunstan Thorn
Kate Magowan -- Salve Girl/Una
Melanie Hill -- Ditchwater Sal
Sienna Miller -- Victoria
Henry Cavill -- Humphrey
Nathaniel Parker -- Dunstan Thorn
Peter O'Toole -- King
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

I am happy to report that the movie Stardust is much better than expected. The previews made Stardust look sketchy and perfunctory compared with other fantasy movies crowding the screens, but Stardust turned out to be quite delightful.

It uses the book, as movies will, and leaves out a lot and puts in a lot, as movies will, but the mix works more often than not. One of the things the movie adds is to make the pirate captain a flaming faggot, the kind one sees in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, daintily lifting their gowns to expose the family jewels. This is, I suppose, a satire/homage/swipe at the Jack Sparrow character from the Pirates of the Caribbean films, though Jack is a much more subtle character and only gay in the sense of "flamboyant." Still, Robert de Niro creates a queer pirate who is so sweet that the over-the-top characterization works, aided by music from the Can Can.

The bittersweet ending of the book has been replaced by a big fight scene and a Hollywood ending, but the audience loved it. At the showing I saw, they applauded, which doesn't happen often. There was also a good crowd, I was glad to see, since the highest Stardust climbed in the box office was the number four spot. It will show a profit, but still end up making about half as much money as Underdog, unless word of mouth gives it a big boost in its second week. I'm telling my friends.

Both of the writers were largely unknown quantities, and so the success of this film gives me some hope for Matthew Vaughn's next film, Thor.

Film critics have been comparing Stardust to The Princess Bride (but not as good, they say) so it is worth remembering that the critics did not all recognize The Princess Bride, when it first came out, for the classic it has now become. Like The Princess Bride, it is the dialogue rather than the special effects that carry Stardust, plus some performances I will remember forever, especially Mark Williams as a goat. Also, like The Princess Bride, there are some awkward bits. Stardust drags just a smidgen in the middle, but comes back strong when the pirate ship sails by. And there is a transition near the end where one minute Tristran is seemingly miles above the wicked witch's castle with no way to get down and the next minute he is at her door.

I liked Stardust a lot.

No credit cookie, but nice credit music.

Copyright © 2007 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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