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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

When director Matthew Vaughn left "X-Men 3" at the mercy of the pack of untalented wolves known collectively as Brett Ratner in favor of helming "Stardust," I hoped the gamble would pay off. Otherwise, humanity would have two additional squandered adaptations stinking up the place and making the hole in the ozone layer even bigger. But thankfully, the odds of getting sunburned haven't drastically increased, because "Stardust" succeeds at being a charming fantasy comedy adventure.

"Stardust" is based on the novella written by Neil Gaiman (creator of the BSandmanC graphic novels) and illustrated by Charles Vess.

The movie stars Charlie Cox as Tristan, a young man who ventures into a magical land beyond a stone wall to retrieve a falling star for his unrequited love. Once he finds that his star is a person (Claire Danes in particular), adventure, romance and general high jinks ensue, featuring an ensemble cast that includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Everett, Peter O'Toole and Ricky Gervais. Robert De Niro also has an unforgettable (albeit just as frivolous a performance as most of his recent work) role as a sky pirate.

As an adaptation, "Stardust" is faithful to its source material. Vaughn and co-writer Jane Goldman have kept Gaiman's trademark wit intact in the process of adapting the novella to film while lightening the mood a bit. The violence on screen is rendered less gruesome than what Gaiman's words conveyed, presumably to attain a PG-13 rating, and the screenwriters seem to have added more jokes to further lighten the proceedings.

However, despite what the awful trailers and TV spots depict, it is not an utter comedic farce on the level of "The Princess Bride." It certainly lies within that genre, but the two are miles apart in terms of similarity.

The worst part of "Stardust" is that it's a safe bet no one will see it. Unfortunately, it's far too subtle (there are no epic, CG-assisted battle scenes) and quirky (for lack of a better term) to stay afloat in a summer flooded with "tour de force" films based on theme park rides and toy lines. But with any luck, it will find its audience on DVD and "Stardust" won?t be the last of its kind.

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