There’s a scene in the the trailer for the upcoming re-remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where Nicole Kidman’s character is walking through a crowd of people and is warned not to show any emotion, because that’s how they can tell you’re still human.
Looking at the Rotten Tomatoes page for Stardust is a little like the opposite of that scene: you can easily pick out the people who panned Stardust, and identify those as people who have no soul.
Now, I didn’t love the movie, but I liked in an awful lot. Overall, it’s just charming and clever, smart where it needs to be, corny where it needs to be, funny and exciting more often than not, moving at the good parts, and imaginative throughout. It’s hard to find fault with it.
But not impossible: Robert De Niro’s character was endearing and played at just the right level until they took it a step too far and had him camping it up. Ricky Gervais’ cameo was just awkward and out of place and threatened to suck all the air out of the movie during the few minutes he’s on screen. And Claire Danes was annoying the hell out of me for the first 30 minutes or so she was on-screen, which is surprising because she usually has me in her thrall in seconds. (Like that Gap commercial, which doesn’t make me want to buy pants as much as it makes me realize my current pants have suddenly gotten uncomfortable).
Still, the movie does all the things an adventure story should, and it usually stays a step above the obvious and cliched. I’ve seen it compared a lot to The Princess Bride, a comparison that is just inconceivable. As much as I like The Princess Bride, it’s very much an 80s movie, with a very Zemeckisian sensibility and very much aware that it’s a story about stories. Stardust is very much a late 90s movie, minus the overbearing irony — it’s more of a straightforward fairy tale/adventure story, told cleverly, but without as much self-awareness. I doubt it’ll become a classic like Princess Bride has, but it’s definitely got at least Labyrinth-level staying power.
I’ve heard that the movie is more simple and shallow than Neil Gaiman’s book, which may be true. I’ve started the book a couple of times, but it’s never held my interest long enough for me to finish it. I think Gaiman may be one of the most imaginative story-tellers alive today, but I’ve never been able to make it through his prose work for some reason. After seeing this movie, I’m going to force myself to read Stardust and American Gods and Anansi Boys. Probably after seeing a bunch more movies and comic books, though.