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The success of such fantasy epics as the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series have brought the genre to the forefront as not only a reliable box office draw, but as a prolific vehicle for great storytelling as well. Out of this surge comes Stardust, a pleasantly sweet little tale born from the pages of Neil Gaiman's four-book DC Comics graphic novel. Though Stardust features a talented cast of Hollywood veterans as well as a couple of relative newcomers, the real star of the show is the great story adapted for the screen by Jane Goldman. Full of whimsy, romance, and imagination, the film harkens back to when Hollywood was about spinning great yarns of love and high-adventure, rather than making a quick buck.

The story is about Tristan Thorne (Charlie Cox), a naive young man who, on a promise to the prettiest girl in the village, Victoria (Sienna Miller), sets out to capture a fallen star in exchange for the girl's hand in marriage. The only problem is that the star has fallen outside of their walled-in village, and into the fantastical realm of Stormhold, where Tristan will unwittingly find himself in the dangerous clutch of magic and unfolding legends.

Once at the site of the crater made by the falling star, Tristan discovers not a chunk of molten space lava, but rather an otherworldly incarnation of the star in the form of a fair-haired young maiden named Yvaine (Claire Danes). As confused about her whereabouts as Tristan is about her identity, Yvaine has no choice but to accompany him back to the village of Wall, where Tristan will present her to Victoria to prove the depths of his love. Boy, whatever happened to just buying flowers?! Anyway, as Tristan and Yvaine begin their trek, they soon realize it might not be as easy as initially thought. Seems three evil sisters, one personified in the form of Michelle Pfeiffer, are also on the hunt for Yvaine, to remove her still-beating heart and regain their youth and beauty long lost to the years. And as if evil witches weren't enough villain for you, we also get the surviving sons of Stormhold's dying king (Peter O'Toole), who want to regain the gem launched into space by their father, and now worn by Yvaine.

Stardust is a curious amalgamation of The Princess Bride, Romancing the Stone and any tale by The Brothers Grimm. Or maybe even The Chronicles of Narnia or The Neverending Story. All these films dance and flitter around similar themes and subject matter, but it's how these stories are told that make them great films. All are perfect examples of how effects, actors, and production techniques should take a back seat to the story being told. There's a lot going on in Stardust, and it proceeds at a lightning pace while expertly cutting back-and-forth between the parallel storylines, but the proceedings never get out of hand and never feel overproduced or rushed. Credit director Matthew Vaughn, who cut his directing teeth on much less delicate fare such as Layer Cake, and as producer on Lock, Stock and two Smoking Barrels. for showing great versatility and decision-making skills here by treating the subject matter with a deft hand and letting if float by naturally rather than pushing it towards the finale. Focused direction is so important with these types of films and without it, Stardust could have been a disaster.

The cast is impressive and all approach their characters with a loving hand. Claire Danes shines literally and figuratively in her role, and plays nicely off her much less known co-star Cox. Their characters take a while to warm to one another, but it's great fun to watch their growing mutual attraction sneak up on each other. Robert DeNiro steps out of his bristly, bad guy oeuvre to play a cross-dressing pirate, and Michelle Pfeiffer goes against character as well, as one of the biggest villains of the film.

As a fantasy romance, Stardust is one of the most entertaining to come around in years. It's chock-full of true love, magical creatures, flamboyantly mystical characters, and even hilarious ghosts and conniving witches. There's quite a bit of violence that might necessitate parental guidance for the young ones, but it's never gratuitous and never out-right graphic. Stardust is a deliciously sweet little tale that will unfortunately get lost somewhere between the summer blockbusters and the impending back-to-school rage, but it nonetheless deserves a look and would make a great addition to a DVD collection when it's released this Holiday season.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1

Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

Language and Sound: Closed Captioned; English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; trailer; deleted scenes.

* Deleted Scenes - Includes several scenes that didn't make the final cut.
* Featurettes
o Good Omens: The Making of Stardust (30:00)
* Blooper Reel
* Trailer - Original theatrical trailer for Stardust

Number of discs: - 1- Keepcase Packaging