New on DVD: 'The Namesake' and 'Stardust'
Mira Nair creates another triumphant cross-cultural odyssey; 'Stardust' plays like 'The Princess Bride' – but with Robert De Niro as an effeminate pirate.
The Namesake (PG-13)
Mira Nair ("Monsoon Wedding") returns to familiar themes of cultural conflict in her adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri's family saga about a young couple, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli (Bollywood stars Irrfan Khan and Tabu), from Calcutta who struggle to adapt to their new life in New York. Their children are equally conflicted, especially their son, the unfortunately named Gogol – played by Kal Penn with an energy and humor that lifts the character out of cliché – who, as an all-American teenager with a WASP girlfriend, initially rejects his family heritage. Nair tries to cram too much of Lahiri's sprawling novel into two hours, and the emotion is often broadbrush, verging on sentimentality. But her penchant for pictorial vignettes, the loving shots of New York and Calcutta – "a portrait of two cities as if they are one" – and outstanding performances make the film truly moving. Special features include Nair talking to Columbia students about moviemaking, sure to interest amateur filmmakers. Grade: B+ – Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar
When "Stardust" was first released, critics aptly compared the swashbuckling fairy tale to "The Princess Bride." Adapted from a graphic novel by Neil Gaiman, the story follows Tristan (Charlie Cox), a man on a quest for a shooting star in order to win over his true love, played by Sienna Miller. The anthropomorphic star turns out to be a cranky Claire Danes, who is pursued by a jumble of other characters. The most memorable is Michelle Pfeiffer, stunning as a witch scrabbling desperately for her lost youth and beauty – which can only be reclaimed with the heart of a fallen star. Robert De Niro makes an unexpected cameo as Captain Shakespeare, a flamboyant can-can enthusiast who pilots a flying pirate ship. Not terribly memorable extras include a making of the film with Gaiman. Grade: B+ – Teresa Méndez