starring Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Sienna Miller, Robert De Niro
screenplay by Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn, based on the novel by Neil Gaiman
directed by Matthew Vaughn
starring Sienna Miller, Steve Buscemi
screenplay by David Schecter and Steve Buscemi, based on the film by Theo Van Gogh
directed by Steve Buscemi
by Walter Chaw I do wonder about films that don't seem to be about anything, but I'll say this at the outset: Matthew Vaughn's Stardust, based on a book by Neil Gaiman, isn't about anything at all--and it's wonderful. Far from empty-headed, though, Stardust is a deeply meaningful series of sweet-nothings, wholly apolitical even in a macho supporting character revealed as a cross-dresser and hair stylist; and by its end, it wins not in spite of being so exuberant in its indulgence of flamboyant clichés, but because it is. It's so much better than the trailers and Gaiman's track record as a novelist (his métier is decidedly rooted in the comics) would lead you to believe, while the inevitable comparisons to The Princess Bride are misleading because The Princess Bride is a piece of shit. A beloved piece of shit, but a piece of shit just the same. On the contrary, Stardust is extremely well-made despite an opening half-hour that boasts of a few too many long establishing shots, directed with real snap by Guy Ritchie's former producer Matthew Vaughn (who did the same with Layer Cake) and executed by a stellar cast that includes a literally incandescent Claire Danes as a fallen star named Yvaine and Michelle Pfeiffer as a hideous bitch goddess, which, given that Stardust follows on the heels of Hairspray, appears to be the vehicle of her late-career comeback. More difficult to embrace is Robert De Niro as the film's Dread Pirate Roberts, a fencing mentor who happens, in this incarnation, to be a ballroom-dancing guru as well. The instinct is to recoil, but damned if it isn't the first De Niro performance in his self-parodic period that's both spot-on in its auto-satire and funny to boot.