Starring Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Robert De Niro. Rated PG.
No one expects originality from a fairy tale, and, in this regard, Stardust does not disappoint. Obviously going for The Princess Bride market, this British-made fantasy throws in elements from Beetlejuice and Lord of the Rings to pleasing, if not very profound, effect.
Adapted by director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake) and coscreenwriter Jane Goldman from an illustrated novel by Neil Gaiman, Stardust begins in the manner (if not the manor) of Shrek 3, with an old king here Peter O'Toole, not John Cleese ready to kick the bucket. Somehow, the king's remaining sons (Sunshine wacko Mark Strong, Red Violinist Jason Flemyng, and an uncredited Rupert Everett) have "broken with tradition" by not bumping each other off at the old man's decline.
To rule mythical Stormhold (called Faerie in the book), the surviving heir must also possess an enchanted ruby. This gem just happens to accompany Yvaine (Claire Danes, excessively mugging), a fallen star who holds a key to the futures of young Tristan (the bland Charlie Cox) and an ancient witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) who wants Yvaine's heart to restore her youth and beauty.
As motivations go, this is much more compelling than the chemistry between Danes and Cox, who send most of their time squabbling, as screen lovers often do. Tristan is from the human contingency outside a wall protecting Stormhold, and he is already courting a local lass (Sienna Miller) who is even bitchier than Yvaine. But if the romantic stretches of Stardust are dull, the two-hour-plus movie offers a steady supply of visual pleasures, and some amusing side trips. A visit from Robert De Niro, as kind of a swish-buckling pirate, is mildly funny. But even this is enlivened by a couple of encounters with Ricky Gervais as a wandering capitalist who lets a cat get his tongue at the worst possible time.
The tale is set in Victorian England, albeit one where people routinely say, "Yeah" and "Get over yourself" just another way that fairy tales can be timeless, I suppose.