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Actors glitter in flighty 'Stardust'

This cinematic take on Neil Gaiman's bestselling novel is an intricate, well-acted fantasy.

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In "Stardust," based on the book by Neil Gaiman, a Victorian village named Wall borders Stormhold, a parallel universe kingdom. The division goes even further: sequences in Wall are deliberately otherworldly, while scenes in Stormhold are more realistic.

The agenda is clear: We are supposed to recognize the magical in the everyday, and vice versa. Pulling this off requires a filmmaker with an extraordinary breadth of vision and Matthew Vaughn, the director and co-writer, isn't quite that.

His previous experience is as a producer on gangster films such as "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" as well as directing one of his own, "Layer Cake." These are not the credits you would expect from the director of a lyrical fantasia. It turns out that he is more comfortable with the magical than with the mundane, and that's not all bad. Fantasy movies are often so gossamer thin that they float away while you're watching them. "Stardust" has a welcome heft.

Tristran Thorne (Charlie Cox) is a resourceful shop boy who promises the pretty Victoria (Sienna Miller) he will venture across the forbidden wall separating his village from its parallel world and bring her back a fallen star. It turns out the star is, in fact, the sylphlike Yvaine (Claire Danes), who doesn't want to be rescued.

In other words, they're a love match and their initial hook-up is a fantasy movie version of meeting cute.

Throughout their odyssey Tristran and Yvaine encounter a pageant of oddballs and connivers, all of whom want something from Yvaine. Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), the witchiest of witches, wants to cut out Yvaine's heart in order to give herself the gift of everlasting life; a set of princes, all contenders to the Stormhold throne of their ailing father (Peter O'Toole), scheme for the jewel around her neck that will ensure their ascendancy.


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