RETRO REVIEW – ‘Labyrinth’

Review by J.T. Johnson

ORIGINAL RELEASE: June 27, 1986
DIRECTOR: Jim Henson
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Alex Thomson
WRITER: Terry Jones
MUSIC: Trevor Jones

I must admit that the moment I sat down to watch “Labyrinth” is also the first time that I had ever seen the movie. Unlike other films such as “The NeverEnding Story”, I never got to see “Labyrinth” as a kid. Therefore, there is no nostalgia at play here as I tell you that this film has plenty of imagination, fantastic puppetry from the legendary Jim Henson and the Jim Henson Company, and of course David Bowie.

The movie did worry me a little at first. When we first meet Sarah Williams (Jennifer Connelly), she is nothing more than a whiny brat. I felt that if she remained that way throughout the film, I was going to be really annoyed by the end. Then, I remembered that this is a family film and that Sarah has to learn life’s hard lessons and that’s why she has to start of as annoying as she is in the beginning.

Sarah wishes that her baby brother would be taken away by the goblins to the Goblin Kingdom and she is shocked when this actually happens. She then meets the Goblin King, Jareth, played exceptionally well by Bowie. He gives her 13 hours to make it through his labyrinth and to his castle in order to rescue her brother and keep him from being transformed into a goblin.

Along the way, she learns that life is hard and full of challenges. However, she also learns that if she doesn’t take what she has for granted and learns a little patience, she can overcome said challenges. This heart of the film comes through and is another reason that the film is a good fantasy for children.

Another highlight of the movie is Bowie. The movie has been described as a musical, but I don’t really think that is the case. Yes, there are a few times that Jareth breaks out into song (all written by Bowie, of course) and there’s one really weird song by a bunch of creatures throwing their heads around, but that’s really it.

The good news is that the music involved is catchy. The song performed by the weird creatures was the only one I felt was strictly for the kiddies, but the Bowie songs were definitely fun to listen to as I watched the movie.

Of course, the true star of the films is the amazing puppets created by Henson and his Company. There are too many great creations to mention here, but the film is a testament to why no one can really hold a candle to what Henson did in the world of puppetry. These creations have more life and creativity than a lot of CGI effects I’ve seen today and have a certain charm due to the fact that they were really created and that people are really having to control them.

The greatest puppets are the ones that follow Sarah on her journey. Hoggle, Ludo, and Sir Didymus all have unique personalities and I found that I liked all of them for various reasons. Although, I have to admit that Sir Didymus was my personal favorite as he constantly charges into danger in the search for glory.

The movie’s story is hardly fresh. Screenwriter Terry Jones borrowed heavily from other fantasy adventures, especially “The Wizard of Oz”. This is not necessarily a bad thing as Jones and Henson filled their world with a lot of original characters, a lot of imagination, and a whole lot of heart.

“Labyrinth” both belongs to the time it was made in and the present day. Whether you are small kid or a full grown adult, this is a good adventure that everyone in the audience can enjoy. Also, did I mention it has David Bowie in it? That’s all you really need to know.

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