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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Matthew Vaughn|
scr Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
with Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert DeNiro, Sienna Miller, Kate Magowan, Mark Strong, Jason Flemyng, Rupert Everett, Dexter Fletcher, Ricky Gervais, Peter O'Toole
release US 10.Aug.07,
07/UK Paramount 2h10
Another surprise: Danes and Cox
Ambitious and entertaining, this twisted fairy tale is like The Princess Bride meets Time Bandits with its quirky humour and unashamedly romantic plot. But the gigantic production design sometimes drowns the simple love story at the film's heart.
In mid-1800s England, Tristan (Cox) wants to impress the snooty girl of his dreams (Miller). He vows to find a fallen star for her, but this involves crossing a wall into a forbidden land called Stormhold. The star is the beautiful Yvaine (Danes), who's also being pursued by a manic witch (Pfeiffer) seeking immortality and a bunch of princes (Strong, Flemyng, Everett, and others) fighting to inherit the kingdom. Adventures ensue involving an airborne ship's captain (DeNiro) trying to maintain his fierce reputation and a slave girl (Magowan) who's far more involved than anyone knows.
This film is a feast for the eyes, jammed with inventive visual flourishes that reference many other fantasy movies. It also has a witty, often hilarious script and a mythology that's complicated enough to keep us guessing what might happen next. Although the screenwriters take this mythology far too seriously; despite the ribald humour, it never remotely mocks the rampant absurdity. As a result, the effects often seem to exist for their own sake, which leaves them looking somewhat cheesy.
The cast is an enjoyable mixed bag. Cox and Danes have the charming but po-faced roles as quite literally star-crossed lovers. Pfeiffer and DeNiro have the scene-chomping parts, delivering the goods deliciously, and then some. Their brilliant work gives us two iconic movie characters and makes the film a must-see. On the other hand, Gervais takes a bad misstep, offering his over-familiar shtick without any variation. At least the screenwriters get even with him.
Vaughn keeps the tone freewheeling and fairly nutty from start to finish, indulging in some swooning romance with lots of terrific surprises along the way. The constant parade of colourful characters keeps us giggling, and frequently laughing out loud. And the story's epic scope actually works very nicely indeed. It's so thoroughly engaging that we don't really mind the fact that the slightly overwrought tone prevents it from being a true classic.
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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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