Labyrinth [retro review]

“That’s not fair!” “You keep saying that. I wonder what your basis for comparison is?”

The Scoop: 1986 PG, directed by Jim Henson and starring Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie.

Tagline: Where everything seems possible and nothing is what it seems.

Summary Capsule: Young gorgeous twit challenges a muppet maze to get her burpy baby bro back.

Justin’s Rating: Curiouser and curiouser

Justin’s Review: If nothing else, this movie is a smashing idea for a theme park. The majority of the action takes place in a large maze, filled with bizarre muppets sometimes attached to other muppets, rooms with freaky voices, Scooby-Doo secret passageways, and even a really smelly bog. It doesn’t take a large leap of the imagination to know that one could easily spend a few hours visiting this fantasy world, which is sort of like a dungeon above ground. It doesn’t look like a place where you’d get killed, exactly, except if you’re really slow at dodging puppets.

Labyrinth is a combination of two fairly limited genres. The first is fantasy movies, which have been dying out painfully since the short burst we had in the 80s (see: Ladyhawke, Willow, The Princess Bride). The other genre is non-“The Muppets” muppet movies (see: Dark Crystal). So hence you get a fantasy about some girl who has to solve this bizarre muppet-infested labyrinth in 13 hours in order to find her baby brother. “Nothing is as it seems” is the continuous theme of the movie, so prepare for a few optical illusions, a lot of characters talking like they’re in a Lewis Carrol novel, and lots of red herrings. But that’s okay, the plot is just a thin teenage girl fantasy excuse to showcase us past wonderfully imaginative sets and kooky muppets.

Did I mention David Bowie is in this movie? Did I mention that his unfortunate presence makes this film into a semi-musical? Did I mention that every time the music revs up, it would be wise to fast-forward quickly? Well, I should have. I could have done without ol’ Dave. Labyrinth takes a half-hearted stab at being darker than your average muppet flick, but when Bowie appears with more makeup than Mimi on “the Drew Carey Show“, it just destroys any sense of impending doom.

I liked Labyrinth, even though the characters are fairly one-dimensional and sometimes it gets too silly for its own good. I can see a certain brand of loyalty growing around this movie. It’s not for your average Joe that left fantasies with Hansel and Gretel; it’s probably not even for half of the people who like fantasies. But Labyrinth does appeal to our inner child’s imagination, and depending on how in touch you are with Little Bobby (no, not THAT “little bobby”), you might just find this film charming.

And guys, there is just something cool about a film that openly declares Fairies to be nothing more than annoying pests, and also brings M.C. Escher paintings to life.

Andie’s Rating: 4 out of 5 of those crystal balls

Andie’s Review: I love The Labyrinth. It’s such a wonderful break of reality, especially to a young girl who wishes she could go on this type of adventure. The only reason I didn’t give it 5 out of 5 is because David Bowie in spandex is more than I can handle.

Since the plot has been summed up already, I just have to go on and on about my favorite stuff. First, I absolutely love the clothes that Sarah gets to wear. She has the coolest outfits and she also has wonderful hair. Anyway, I love when she hasn’t quite asked for the goblins to take her brother yet and they’re all crowded together, waiting for her to say the words. I also love when she encounters the old man with the bird on his head. And of course, the final scene where it’s that painting come to life is just inspired. It’s so neat.

The David Bowie songs are a little much, but I think that the “Dance, Magic, Dance” song is pretty catchy. The little fiery things that can throw their own heads scared the crap out of me when I was young and now they’re just annoying. But those are my only complaints with the movie. It’s a wonderful trek into fantasy land. A perfect night of adventure movies, for me, would include Labyrinth, Princess Bride, and Goonies and it’s too bad we don’t get movies like this nowadays.

toni’s Rating: two hand-faces up….or down…or sideways…or, or, I can’t tell anymore!

toni’s Review: I am in touch with my inner child. Deeply. I’m one of those people who will get up early for saturday morning cartoons when she’s forty and shamelessly enjoy playing dress-up with her grandchildren. So it should come as no surprise to you that ‘Labyrinth‘ is one of my all star favorite movies of all time. I grew up with this puppy and I’m not ashamed to admit to the raging schoolgirl crush I had on David Bowie, Goblin Queen. These days I only want his outfits but you don’t want to hear about that, do you? I didn’t think so.

Our story starts with Sarah, a self involved and rather whiny teen, desperately convinced of her own maturity yet clinging to childhood like a barnacle. Ewww, huh? This sets up the whole ‘growth’ aspect as Sarah lives out her fantasies and finds that they just aren’t enough anymore (“You have no power over me”). The plot is simple, Sarah wishes the goblins would take away her baby brother and, oops!, they do. Jareth the singing Goblin King arrives in a flurry of big hair to give her her deepest fantasies OR thirteen hours through a maze to find the baby. The rest of the movie chronicles those thirteen hours, naturally. And it is beautiful. The maze is breathtaking (uh, for a painted set) and the muppets are cute in a gnarled up fashion. Just -wait- till you see the little gentlemanly worm, I always use that accent when I’m inviting people in to my apartment now. I could probably over-detail every character Sarah meets, but people might start thinking me odd. And we wouldn’t want that. Highlights include the vermin fairies, the riddle-me-this door guards, the Fireys and the decadent ballroom scene. And the Esher painting come to life is not to be missed.

Watch me pause to make a big, -big- point here folks. ‘Labyrinth‘ is a musical. If the very thought of a musical makes you twitch uncontrollably, do not watch this. If you don’t like David Bowie, do not watch this. There, you’ve been warned. Is there anyone still reading? A few? Oh, good! Because I love the music of Labyrinth, and you might too. It’s infectious and singable and during ‘Chilly Down’ I’ve been known to hop around the room like a five year old with one too many pixie stix in them. Trust me, it’s disturbing. But that is the nature of ‘Labyrinth‘, twistedly childish, and if you can get that, you’ll be hooked.

And they stared... each wanting the other's outfit.

Intermission!

  • The M.C. Escher poster in Sarah’s room
  • Along with the Esher painting, all the other references in Sarah’s room. A wooden maze game, a Sir. Didymus stuffed toy, Hoggle bookends. Play along!
  • References to Alice in Wonderland
  • That stupid dog is sometimes real, and sometimes a puppet
  • In The Labyrinth, when you watch it in widescreen, Jareth’s (David Bowie’s) face appears all over the place, built into the Labyrinth. I count as many as eight. In order they are: 1. After the worm scene, stone in the top far right. 2. After The Cleaners, when Hoggle looks down after breaking the rung on the ladder. Bottom right. 3. After the Talking Hat, on the ground in the hedge maze, middle left. 4. Hedge maze top left. 5. Full frame and most of the following scene where Jareth gives Hoggle the psychedelic peach. 6. After the ledge breaks the first time in the Bog of Eternal Stench. Right bottom. 7. When the group are in the forest and Sir Didymus says, “We should reach the castle well before the day.” Right middle, in the trees. 8. In the background, top center, wall of building.[thanks StarOpal!]
  • The baby who plays Toby is Toby Froud, son of the man who drew the scetches of many creatures in both this movie and The Dark Crystal, another Jim Henson production.
  • Check out Brand New Grown Up Jennifer Connelly (Sarah) playing the babe in Dark City. Very cool. (and hot!)

Groovy Quotes

Sarah: Ow! It bit me!
Hoggle: What’d you EXPECT fairies to do?
Sarah: I thought they did nice things, like granting wishes!
Hoggle: Shows what YOU know, don’t it?

Sarah: That’s not fair!
Jareth: You keep saying that. I wonder what your basis for comparison is?

Hoggle: Well, can’t be right all the time.

Ludo: Smell bad!!!!

[Ambrosious is retreating from the goblins]
Sir Dydamus: Ambrosious, if you don’t turn around this instant, I’ll never feed you again.

Sarah: Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the goblin city to take back the child which you have stolen. For my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom as great. You have no power over me.

Firey: An Ear! Take off your ear! You don’t need two ears!

The Wise Man’s Hat: It’s so stimulating being your hat.

If You Liked This Movie, Try These:

  • Dark Crystal
  • The Princess Bride
  • Ladyhawke
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13 Comments

  1. Just a drinking game me and some friends invented for this movie. You take a shot of beer every time there is an obvious shot of david bowie’s “package”. DO NOT NOT NOT take shots of liquor playing this game. You will die.

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