I wrote that title and then realized that most people won't even remember Perry Como singing the song "Catch a Falling Star." Indeed, even I don't remember the lyrics beyond, "Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket/Never let it fade away ... " Nevertheless, that's what the main character of Stardust has to figure out, that the fallen star he's found is worth not only an entire kingdom, but more magic than he's prepared to imagine, and that he must save her life, even at the risk of his own.
Charlie Cox plays the rather naive and giddy Tristran, who sets off into the magical world of Stormhold to retrieve a falling star for the neighborhood beauty, whose avaricious nature leads her to promise her hand in marriage to the beau who brings her the nicest gift.
Ah, but the star, who has been rudely knocked out of the sky by the magically flung ruby of the dying King of Stormhold, appears not as a meteorite, but as a lovely young woman named Yvaine (Claire Dane.) Tristran is bemused, but determined to drag her back as the proof of his love, and he notices not at all the gem in the necklace Yvaine has found at her crash site. Nor does he realize that the mother he never knew was the first daughter of the late King of Stormhold.
And he has no idea that his mother's brothers are frantically trying to find the enchanted ruby in order to claim the empty throne to the kingdom. Oh, and three or four witches are very interested in finding the fallen Star so that they can cut out her heart and eat it and regain their youth and power. Yum! Major clash ensues.
Charlie Cox and Claire Dane make a lovely couple, her occasional sarcasm rounding out her character, his frustration with the magical realm giving depth to his. Both of them find a sense of humor even in the midst of their turmoil, and I found myself liking them as a team very much. I also was mollified by Claire Dane NOT having collagen-swollen carp lips. How refreshing!
This movie has been very poorly advertised. I knew nothing about it until I accessed the Internet Movie Database and even then, it looked like a lamer until I read a couple reviews. (By the way, I don't bother with newspaper reviews -- I want to hear from real people who have gone to see the movie and have no agenda to color their opinions.) On the basis of the first few online reviews, I allowed myself to be persuaded to leave the peaceful confines of the house and go see this movie. Even though it is only in its first week, there couldn't have been more than 50 people in the theater. What a shame -- I loved the movie ten minutes into the film and can't wait to own the DVD.
Michelle Pfeiffer was lusciously wicked as the witch Lamia, and Robert De Niro captivating as the captain of the lightning-harvesting ship, Captain Shakespeare. Even if Charlie Cox and Claire Dane hadn't turned in good performances, I'd see this movie again for Pfeiffer and De Niro. Especially for De Niro, and his oh-so-supportive crew.
CGI was top-notch, costuming was excellent, and tomorrow, what I'll remember and giggle about will be the expression on Lamia's (Michelle Pfeiffer's) face when she tries to apply a little magical remedy to her wrinkled face and just makes her boob job drop to middle-aged saggies. Heh.
I don't think, due to an asinine lack of advertising, that Stardust will do well at the box office, but it was a delight to lift even a sad heart to laughter and hope.
Watching movies is like eating something you find on the kitchen counter the morning after a big party: sometimes you get a really tasty morsel, and sometimes you get something that makes you gag. And it's pretty hard to tell ahead of time which it's going to be.
Take the movie 300. Sand and I were talked into watching it by people we considered friends -- family in fact. And of course there was all the publicity about how innovative it was, and how there were so many abs to be seen, and the $210 million take at the box office, all of which might have indicated that this might be one of the morsels. But I have to tell you, while it may have been technically clever, the acting, the story and the story telling sucked. 300 is to good movie as Jack Kervorkian is to good doctor. (Yes, I know that there are some who would argue that Jack was a good doctor and was a visionary, but that's a whole n'other article as they say.)
On the other hand, take Stardust, which opened this past week. Here's a movie that I had heard very little about. Maybe I had my head stuck in the sand, but I saw very little media hype about this movie, and apparently I'm not the only one, because here in our corner of California, there were very few people to show up for the Saturday matinee. For the handful of us who did show, we were treated to a stunning motion picture.
The story is delightful, a classic love story where love -- honest, caring, selfless love is not only touted as mankind's greatest adventure, but it does indeed conquer all. There are bad guys that are bad, good guys that are good but not perfect, magic and humor, and a tale so well told that I truly regretted seeing it end.
Fantasy is a genre that can be difficult to do well. The storyteller or the movie maker can get hung up on gimmick and forget to tell a good story. This past year's Night at the Museum was like that. A cute movie, but really all it was was the gimmick of museum exhibits coming to life after hours. Stardust, on the other hand, is a great story of love and political intrigue that just happens to be set in a place where quite naturally stars can be cast to earth as beautiful women, witches must eat the hearts of these stars in order to stay young, sailing ships ply storm clouds to capture lightning bolts, and ghosts hang around because they've no place better to go.
And if that is not enough to get your interest, there is the acting. Charlie Cox and Claire Dane are pleasant and witty in the romantic leads, but Michele Pfeiffer as the evil (or at the very least ruthlessly selfish) witch Lamia truly carries this film. Her performance gives this fantasy its credibility, and I say this even though I have never considered myself a Pfeiffer fan. And adding a bit of icing to the cake, Peter O'Toole is brilliant in his albeit too short a part, and Robert De Niro delights us in the role of Captain Shakespeare.
Please, if you get the chance, go see this one in the movie house, and when the DVD comes out, snap it up. I think this is going to one of those classics that is going to as fun to watch twenty years from now as it is today.