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Case Number 27220: Small Claims Court

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Angels in Stardust

Arc Entertainment // 2014 // 100 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // April 20th, 2014

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All Rise...

Judge Gordon Sullivan gets his life advice from a drive-in zombie.

The Charge

Anything is possible.

The Case

It seems like certain cinematic milestones are designed to make viewers feel old. I was surprised when Winona Ryder played Spock's mother in Star Trek, but to judge by the internet chatter, that one casting decision turned half the population into Methuselahs overnight. I didn't share that terror, but I did start to feel the quiet tug of time when I saw that Alicia Silverstone is now playing maternal characters. Specifically, Angels in Stardust casts the Clueless star as the mother of a teenager. Sadly, the film is so slow and misguided that viewers will have all 100 minutes to contemplate their own mortality.

Vallie Sue (AJ Michalka, Super 8) is a teenager living in the tiny town of Tardust, looking after her younger brother while her mother (Alicia Silverstone) goes through a string of men. Vallie dreams of leaving her tiny town, and seeks solace in a drive-in cowboy (Billy Burke, Twilight).

What is this movie? That was the question that wouldn't leave my head as the narrative unspooled. The title and back cover (which features a winged Billy Burke) suggest angelic intervention and a possible Christian message. I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover and all that, but this feels patently misleading. Instead of an angel, we get Billy Burke as a cinematic cowboy that Vallie Sue visits at the local abandoned drive in. Though he's clearly intended to be a figment of her imagination, he still dispenses advice and wisdom that helps Vallie Sue deal with her terrible little town.

So maybe Angels in Stardust falls into that genre of coming-of-age films where some fictional character helps the hero(ine) learn a valuable lesson, something like Drop Dead Fred, or even Tideland.

There isn't much of a lesson in Angels in Stardust, though. Though the angelic motif might suggest an overtly biblical theme, Angels in Stardust fails to have much of a point at all. Despite the 100-minute running time, not much actually happens, and Vallie Sue neither learns the courage to give up her home nor the fortitude to remain stoically.

All right, so maybe the film is a character study, not a plot-focused affair. If that's the case, then Angels in Stardust fails completely, as every character is basically a stereotype. Vallie Sue is the perennial young woman who wants to leave the one horse town. It's a sympathetic archetype, as most of us have been in a situation we longed to leave, but there's little that suggests a three-dimensional person behind that stereotype. That extends to her mother, who is the quintessential absent mother, trying to sleep her way to a well-off guy who will get her out of the trailer park, or at least support her. Then there's the Cowboy, who couldn't get more stereotypical. He too is a strange amalgam of cinematic cowboy clichés, dispensing homespun "wisdom" that sounds like the worst kind of greeting-card crap.

The most galling part of the film is that it feels like it could be so much better. So many of the elements suggest a better film that Angels in Stardust is all the more disappointing. The basic idea of a wanderlust-filled young woman talking to a drive-in Cowboy immediately suggests a whole host of possible directions, many of them excellent. The contrast between a teen hoping to leave her one-horse town and her mother who wants to sleep her way through it also suggests lots of dramatic possibilities. The actors do a fine enough job with a script that doesn't give them much to work with, though everyone's heart seems to be in the right place.

As a DVD, Angels in Stardust is okay. The film's 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is fine. The dusty exteriors are pretty detailed, and the interior moments have a grittiness to them that sells the desperation of Vallie Sue's situation. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is fine as well. Dialogue is clean and clear in the front, though the surrounds don't get much use.

It's a double shame that Angels in Stardust doesn't work, as the world could use more coming-of-age stories that don't just focus on young boys. The film gets some credit for at least trying something new, but even teenage viewers will have seen enough films to know that this one just doesn't work.

Angels in Stardust aims to be a coming-of-age tale that uses a drive-in cowboy to dispense wisdom to a teenager with ideas bigger than her small town. Sadly, the film can't figure out what to do with that idea, instead wallowing in 100 minutes of aimlessness. Maybe fans of the actors will get something out of the film, but the average viewer can safely stay away.

The Verdict

Guilty of being confused.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 74

Perp Profile

Studio: Arc Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2014
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Drama
• Family
• Independent
• Religious and Spiritual

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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