How many miles to Babylon?
Three score and ten
Can I get there by candlelight?
Aye, and back again
If your feet are nimble and light,
You’ll get there by candlelight.
–Traditional Children’s Rhyme
For what it is, this movie is just about perfect. What it is is a fairy tale, brimming with energy and imagination, featuring thrills, chills, the requisite happy ending, and above all a sense of wonder.
The story begins in Nineteenth Century England, in the ancient village of Wall, so named because of a long stone wall which separates our world from the magical kingdom of Stormhold. Tristan (Charlie Cox) a good-hearted but inept young man sees a falling star. Seeking to impress a pretty girl, he promises to cross the wall and bring it back to her. But the laws of nature are different in Stormhold, and he is astonished to discover that the star is actually a beautiful young woman (Claire Danes.)
This is only the beginning of his adventures, for many people are seeking the star for their own nefarious purposes, including a wicked witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) and two ruthless princes. Robert De Niro makes a startling appearance as a ruthless but sensitive pirate captain.
This is a wonderful and satisfying movie, but the fact that I called it a “fairy tale” does not mean that it is OK to take your five-year-old to see it. It is too violent and scary for small children. Ten years might be a reasonable minimum age. (It is rated PG-13 for “fantasy violence” and some mild sexual humor.)