A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although this highly entertaining fantasy will appeal to kids with its mix of swashbuckling adventure and romance, it's darker than cinematic cousins like The Princess Bride. It's surprisingly violent, with several deaths and lots of fights featuring knives and swords. The scenes in which an evil witch unleashes her fury are truly frightening (one with a voodoo doll may make even older tweens close their eyes), as is her transformation into an old hag. The subplots, including one about brothers vying for their father's crown trying to kill each other, may be too disturbing for younger kids.
What's the story?
Based on Neil Gaiman's novel, STARDUST chronicles the adventures of Tristan (Charlie Cox), a young man who ventures beyond the mysterious wall that surrounds his town to find a fallen star so he can bring it back to the town beauty to prove he's worthy of her love. It's a goal that seems simple enough, but the odyssey changes Tristan forever. It all starts when, instead of the "lump of rock" Tristan imagined, the star in question turns out to be a young woman named Yvaine (Claire Danes). She was felled from the sky by a ruby necklace thrown to the winds by a cruel king (Peter O'Toole) who decrees before he dies that whichever of his male heirs finds it will succeed him on the throne. At first, Yvaine's not too keen to help a stranger like Tristan, especially since his goal is to win over a selfish, though admittedly gorgeous, girl (Victoria, the object of Tristan's affection, is played by Sienna Miller). But Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), an old witch, is after Yvaine's heart -- literally; the witch must eat it to look forever young -- and without Tristan's help, the star might be hacked to pieces. (Oh, and then there's the prince who wants to get his mitts on the ruby.)
Is it any good?
Stardust's plot is a bit overstuffed, Claire Danes comes off a little too serious in a charming but not-so-starry turn, and the many cameos are entertaining but a bit distracting, too. The movie clocks in at a long-but-fast-moving two hours and eight minutes. There are so many threads to keep track of that it's a wonder viewers don't end up in knots. But one detour, though overlong, needs no excuses because it's so much fun: Tristan and Yvaine's healing sojourn with Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro, absolutely amazing), a pirate who pretends to love being brutal but much prefers cooking, piano playing, hairdressing, and dancing in women's clothing.
The violence level is surprisingly high. Swords and knives are drawn left and right -- though cartoonishly enough, and little actual blood is shed (when it is, the color is blue, which somewhat mitigates the gore). The most brutal of the lot is Lamia, played with considerable relish by Pfeiffer, whose race against time is vividly captured through her falling hair and wrinkling skin (the special effects are top-notch). Could there be a bigger (guilty) pleasure than watching the always-luminous Pfeiffer look like a crone? As in most romantic movies, love conquers all in the end. And a late-breaking twist regarding Tristan's mother's true identity and what it means for him is especially delicious. But it's the lovers' journey to the denouement -- made more interesting by their adventures -- that ultimately makes Stardust so satisfying.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes up a really good adventure/love story. Is it sword fights? Scary villains? Handsome leading men and ladies? What's the appeal of fantasy tales like this one? Are violent scenes any less scary when they take place in a world of witches and flying ships? Families can also discuss Tristan's relationships with Victoria and Yvaine. Is Victoria worth the trouble he goes to? How is she different from Yvaine? How does the movie show Tristan's changing feelings toward the two women? And why does Lamia want to stay young forever? Is youth valued above all, especially on film?
- In theaters: August 10, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: December 18, 2007
- Cast: Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer
- Director: Matthew Vaughn
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy
- Run time: 128 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some fantasy violence and risque humor.
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