A 16-year old girl is given 13 hours to solve a labyrinth and rescue her baby brother when her wish for him to be taken away is granted by the Goblin King.
Director: Jim Henson
Starring: Jennifer Connelly, David Bowie, Frank Oz, Kevin Clash, Anthony Asbury, Dave Goelz, Brian Henson
Rated: PG (creature action violence and mild language)
By Cole Schneider
Back in theaters this Sunday and Wednesday is the strange, surreal, and fascinating 1986 relic “Labyrinth”, which mixes classical coming-of-age storytelling, children’s fantasy, and 80s entertainment with surprising, if not always deft, results. Perhaps it’s just looking back with a clarity that wouldn’t have existed at the time, but “Labyrinth” is exactly what someone should expect in a collaboration between director Jim Henson (the Muppets creator), writer Terry Jones (Monty Python member), producer George Lucas (“Star Wars” creator), and the late star David Bowie (flamboyant rock music legend).
For those who haven’t seen it since shoving it in the VCR in 1994, “Labyrinth” introduces a selfish, rather pitiful girl (a young Jennifer Connelly) caught in that familiar age between childhood and adulthood. In a moment of frustration while babysitting her annoying baby brother, she wishes that the Goblin King (Bowie) would take him away. The eccentric King does, of course, and she embarks on a fantastic, hasty journey through the labyrinth, toward his castle before time runs out and he turns her brother into a goblin.
By the end, she has gone through all the maturation tropes and has learned that she in control of her own reality, but the “Labyrinth” is more about the journey than the destination—and what a journey it is! There is enough twisted logic, adventurous fun, comic curiosity, and practical effects wonder to easily cover some of its tonal misfires and ‘too stuck in the eighties’ problems. If you’ve somehow never seen “Labyrinth”, this is a wonderful opportunity to experience its inexhaustible magic. Still on the fence? Imagine Lewis Carrol rewriting Homer. It’s not to be missed. Even its many warts have become interesting.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
By Matt Greene
Nostalgia holds a magical power over people. It can warm souls, comfort sadness, project youth, and even cloud judgment. This makes films like Labyrinth particularly difficult to read critically. Much like Goonies, Henson’s Labyrinth’s, a mix of wry comedy and innovatively designed ideas, put a loving trance on swaths of 20-40 year olds who happened to see it at the right time. Much like many of its ilk, I’m not sure it completely deserves all the accolades it gets from its fanboys/girls. However, it’s still fantastical fun, even if its storytelling urgency is less than fully engulfing.
It’s a film more interested in incidents than plot (girl wishes brother would leave, goblins steal brother, sister has to get brother back). In that sense, and many others, it harkens Alice in Wonderland (my favorite Disney Animated film). It’s an intensely imaginative movie that follows a bored young girl (played by Connelly with the charisma of a mannequin) as she encounters an adventure full of odd characters, winding streets, and inexplicable magic. The characters within the maze are fun and distinct, and Bowie matches the dark mystery of the story while keeping a childish wonder right below the surface.
The difference between this and other kids-fantasy-adventures I REALLY love is hard to pinpoint. The design is outstanding, the humor is affable, the characters are surprising, and the scenes pop with surprise. Again, I can only assume my distance from this film during my early age keeps me at a slight distance. Nonetheless, this is an enjoyable piece of 80s pop-culture that I’m shocked Tim Burton and Johnny Depp haven’t ruined with a CG-covered remake. Give it time.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars