STARDUST, based on Neil Gaiman’s fairy tale novel for grownups by the same name, is a sweeping, whimsical, and sometimes downright terrifying film brought to life with charm and smarts. Charlie Cox as the hero unawares is pitch perfect bumbling through derring-do and fond first love as he traverses terrains as different but equally treacherous as Victorian England and the fairy kingdom just next door to his village in the bucolic countryside.
Deleted and altered scenes offer ruminations on the origins of the champagne glass, a bit more of Mark WilliamsS perfectly brilliant as Goat Boy, welcome extended scenes of the ghostly brothers dealing with their ectoplasmic state, and an ending that was right to have been reworked. Less is more. The blooper reel has been smartly edited, which doesn’t help much with the actors being bleeped over botched takes, but does when it comes to showcasing Cox as he has trouble falling over his own feet while attempting to get from point A to point B.
There is no commentary track, but the making of featurette is at least as good as one would have been. Casting Charlie Cox, a relative unknown comes in for its own fairy tale story, how to dress a star, cinema and astronomical, comes in for its own practical considerations, and the meeting of Ricky Gervais and Robert DeNiro has its own epic quality, albeit one with a part atmosphere.
For all the CGI, it’s interesting to learn that the locations were of primary importance. Even though a cliff-hanging castle and a cloud-skimming galleon could be created in bits and bytes, it was important to get actual bits of real estate to add the verisimilitude that makes the magic works. There are other interesting touches, too, and for me it was reassuring to find out that the carriage the brothers, dead and alive, travel in, is supposed to look like a Hummer. One learns how the livestock laws in Iceland prevented the entire film being shot there. The best parts are Neil Gaiman himself, musing on inspiration and guilt. It’s a side of the creative process, and the human being behind it, that is particularly sweet to experience second hand.
Sure, there are evil witches (Michelle Pfeiffer becoming disgruntled over having only one of her prosthetic mammaries expanding is a marvel of professionalism), unicorns on a mission, and transmorgified creatures great and small, but all involved never lose sight that the romance of the story is the most important element. Ethereal and earthy, wildly funny and breathtakingly adventurous, STARDUST is pure magic.