This is less an adaptation of Neil Gaiman's 1999 novel than of its dust-jacket synopsis, which will come as disconcerting news to fans of the author, whose delicate jigsaw-puzzle fantasies are populated by contemptuous faeries and sanguine mortals. Lost in Stardust is the poetry of Gaiman's writing, which is replaced by brute-force storytelling. Still, the story is sturdy enough to survive, as it's as old as papyrus itself—a quest tale in which a young man named Tristan (the incredibly generic Charlie Cox) must endure myriad perils in order to fetch a fallen star that's the object of his alleged True Love's deepest desire. Alas, the star's far more than a radiant rock; she's a girl called Yvaine, played by Claire Danes, who's also being chased by a trio of witches, chief among them Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), and two would-be kings. Stardust will accrue many comparisons to Rob Reiner's The Princess Bride, but director Matthew Vaughn's variation on the theme isn't as playful as Reiner's, and when Stardust does devolve into comedy, it fails miserably. Robert De Niro shows up halfway through as a closeted, cross-dressing captain of a high-flying pirate ship, and he's an utter distraction—a reminder that, hey, this is just a silly movie about silly things starring famous people acting all silly.
Pfeiffer casts a spell.
Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., Aug. 10. Rated PG-13. 128 minutes.