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Nicola Mostyn wishes she believed in magic again

Published on October 22nd 2007.


I don't know about you, but I miss The Box of Delights. Well, it is not so much that I miss the TV programme – I can hardly remember anything about it except it involved a young boy, a magical box, a bunch of wolves and a chap with a beard – but I miss the feeling it gave me. I miss the way that, when you were a child, a piece of drama could sweep you up in its enchantment, transport you with spells and sorcery and make you believe there could be a magical world just under your nose.

Stardust is the sort of old fashioned, sweet and gently funny adventure story you might have watched as a child, albeit with CGI effects to make the directors of The Princess Bride weep.

Okay, I was a rather whimsical kid and once spent a very long summer staring at objects convinced that I could move them with my mind but, even so, I'm sure I'm not the only adult who was really looking forward to Stardust, a fantasy fairytale adapted from a story by graphic novel writer Neil Gaiman.

Directed by Matthew Vaughn (in a bit of a departure from his previous movie, Layer Cake), Stardust tells of Tristan (Charlie Cox), an adventurous shop boy who crosses over the wall from his mortal world into the enchanted land next door, to retrieve a fallen star in order to win the heart of Victoria (Sienna Miller), a silly, snooty girl who's unfortunately rather more keen on the pompous and important Humphrey.

Still, all Tristan needs to do is bring back the star and she'll be his girl. Except that the star has been knocked out of the sky by a flying necklace and so the necklace's owners are now chasing the star, as are a trio of haggard witches, headed by Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), who need to devour the heart of a star to regain their youth. Oh, yeah, and there's also the small matter of the star not actually wanting to go with Tristan. The star's a girl, you see.

These days, when faced with stunning scenery, enchanted worlds and period costumes, my brain automatically sets itself to anticipate a three-hour epic fantasy sequel-instalment of labyrinthine complexity. So it was some surprise to find that Stardust is the sort of old fashioned, sweet and gently funny adventure story you might have watched as a child, albeit with CGI effects to make the directors of The Princess Bride weep.

Like the detail that the fallen star is actually a beautiful, irate young woman in a clingy silver dress (Claire Danes), the film contains many quirky, imaginative aspects, but these are encased within a very traditional framework. So there's the young boy who must realise his own worth and find real love (played with great charm by Cox), the princes who fight murderously and amusingly over the necklace, the terrible, wicked witch whose fate is always assured in fairy tales and the good Samaritan – Robert De Niro as a camp ship's captain who must uphold his fearsome reputation, in a series of initially charming ideas which eventually oversteps the mark into rather insulting daftness, though it should get a laugh from the kids.

Also refreshing is the fact that there doesn't seem to be any allegorical element to Stardust either, no subtext or concealed message except for the simple idea generally found in fairy tales - love is good, greed is bad, it isn't very pleasant to be turned into a goat.

All this, plus the soothing voice-over by Ian McKellan, the A-list cast (the film also stars Rupert Everett, Peter O'Toole, Ricky Gervais and…erm…Avaline from Bread) and the gentle pace of the narrative and you almost feel you should be watching this film curled up in your jim-jams munching hot buttered toast (I'm not sure what the AMC would make of this.)

So, that's Stardust for you: it might not make you believe in magic again, but it may help you forget about the mortgage for a couple of hours.

Rating: 7/10

Stardust (PG) is on general release now.

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