Matthew Vaughn’s charming, whimsical romantic fantasy epic is a well-made, very enjoyable little slice of imagination, a mixture of the old and the new. Once upon a time, there lived Tristan (Charlie Cox), the young son of a Victorian scientist and a gypsy slave girl/prostitute called Una (Kate Magowan). Now grown, Tristan is the grocery clerk who lives in the small English village of Wall, cleverly named for the wall which separates it from the fantastical world of Stormhold. Tristan is in love with beautiful, popular Victoria (Sienna Miller), who has her own betrothed, the posh and ill-tempered Humphrey (Henry Cavill). Determined to prove his love for her, Tristan will retrieve a fallen star that has landed on the other side of the wall. Arriving on the other side of the wall, Tristan discovers Yvaine (Claire Danes), a beautiful young lass in place of the shooting star. Before long, via circumstances beyond his control, Tristan is attempting to escort Yvaine (quite against his will) through the kingdom of Stormhold to get back to England. The duo is pursued by Primus (Jason Flemyng), the son of King Stormhold (Peter O’Toole), who wants Yvaine because she holds the key to eternal life. So too does Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), a witch, seek her out for exactly the same reason. Tristan and Yvaine attempt to evade their pursuers, seeking refuge for a time with the astonishingly misleading Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro), a pirate on an air ship whose demeanor is an affect at best, and a deception at worst. All of this is narrated by Ian McKellen (“Lord of the Rings”), the voice of all things fantastical and ancient. The film was directed by Matthew Vaughn (“Layer Cake”) and is based on the novel by Neil Gaiman, no stranger to vaguely historical fantasy (“MirrorMask”). The story is a bit overstuffed, but it’s also quite enjoyable. The sequences involving Captain Shakespeare are tremendously entertaining, and it’s a joy to see De Niro playing a real character. It’s all a little too trivial to take seriously, and a little less epic than some of its recent predecessors; think less “Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter” and more “Princess Bride.” Still, it’s a good time.


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