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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

STARDUST (article first published : 2007-10-17)

A collection of ghostly humans, a human goat, Clare Danes as a fallen star (of the twinkling variety), a bluebird that’s actually a princess attached with an enchanted rope to the wagon of a gypsy witch.

And how about a farmhand that develops woman’s breasts, Ricky Gervais as a buyer of bottled lightning, Robert De Niro as a flamboyantly gay but outwardly macho captain of a cloud-riding ship, and Michelle Pfeiffer as one of a trio of witches made to look old with laughable rubber masks?

Stardust - the work of director Matthew Vaughn - is a glossy new fantasy based on a novel by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess. It is convoluted, cluttered and sometimes unfocused, some having likened it to a cauldron mix of The Princess Bride and Lord of the Rings.

There is no denying, however, that it has a certain charm and elements of wit, is colourful and is always unpredictably entertaining, as it unfolds over two hours or so, narrated by Sir Ian McKellen.

The story revolves around a blonde, silver-satin-draped star called Yvaine (Danes), which falls to Earth after being bumped out of the sky by a dying king (Peter O’Toole) hurling a magical pendant into the heavens.

He does so in a bid to send his sons, rotters all, on a quest to find it. When they do find the pendant, he says, the one who turns its gem from white to red will be the successor to the throne. And so off the men go - the journey involving them devising ways to bump each other off while they seek the pendant, now around the neck of the radiant Yvaine.

Meanwhile, in another section of 18th century England, we have a handsome young man, Tristan (Charlie Cox) who, fawning at the feet of an uninterested local lass (Sienna Miller), promises her a birthday gift of a fallen star . . . and, consequently and inevitably, stumbles upon Yvaine.

Also seeking Yvaine is a devious witch who wants to tear out and eat her heart as a means of acquiring eternal youth for her and her ugly sisters.

All these characters collide in an adventure that wanders down many twisty paths before its grand finale.

There are other gripes about this picture – one could babble on, for instance, about the truly naff title and the score being bloated and often overpowering – but in the end there is sufficient humour, gloss, spectacle and, well, stardust, to ensure an enjoyable matinee treat. – Billy Suter




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