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March 3, 2021
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Stardust/Hot Rod
(2007-08-17)
(wgvu) - Stardust is a charmer. When I saw the preview I thought it looked interesting, since I'm a fantasy fan, but it also looked a little dull. But the movie is an old-fashioned, straightforward fairy tale that wastes no time getting to the point, which is romance and adventure. The story begins in Wall, England, where a young man named Tristran is wooing a spoiled beauty named Victoria, with a midnight picnic and champagne. They witness a falling star, and Tristran makes her a promise. (clip) Tristran finds another world after crossing over the ancient wall, a realm of kings, pirates and witches. He finds the fallen star, which turns out to be a beautiful young woman Yvaine. Using a magic chain he binds Yvaine to him, to take her back to Victoria. Along the way they're waylaid by aerial pirates who travel in a gigantic airship balloon. Robert DeNiro plays the cross-dressing captain, and he figures the truth about Yvaine. (clip) Meanwhile, an evil witch played by Michelle Pfeiffer is seeking the fallen star, with the intention of consuming her heart, thus granting thousands of years of youth. In this scene she interrogates and transfixes a crook played by Ricky Gervais. (clip) Stardust is based on a novel by Neil Gaiman, and directed by Matthew Vaughn. Claire Danes is delightful as the fallen star, and Charlie Cox is suitably brave and handsome as the na ve hero. There are nifty supporting roles for Peter O'Toole, Rupert Everett, David Kelly, and other UK veterans of stage and screen. Best of all, though, is the wonderful story.

Now on the other hand

Hot Rod is stupid, imbecilic, and idiotic, and I enjoyed every moronic moment of it. Andy Samburg is Rod Kimble, a self-proclaimed stunt man, who rides his moped over old buses and trucks to entertain the neighborhood kids. (clip) He always crashes. Rod has a team of misfits as his crew. Rod also has a crush on the next door neighbor girl, Denise. (clip) Rod's fixation on stunt driving rises out of his continuing sorrow for his long lost father, an anonymous stunt man, who died when Rod was a child. (clip) Inspiration comes to Rod, after his abusive step-father is diagnosed with incurable heart disease. He needs fifty thousand dollars for a heart transplant, and Rod is going to raise that money with his greatest stunt yet, jumping fifteen school buses.

Hot Rod is what it is, a juvenile, slapstick comedy with a tad of weirdness that seems lifted from Napoleon Dynamite. It frequently falls flat, but I sat in an empty theater and nearly cracked my nut sack with laughter, and that's a genuine, if painful, litmus test.
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