Logline: A sixteen year old girl has thirteen hours to solve a labyrinth where nothing is as it seems in order to save her baby brother from the Goblin King.
Review: “You remind me of the babe.” Jim Henson’s Labyrinth is a fun children’s fantasy film that stars the late, great David Bowie and a young Jennifer Connelly. Though the film was a box office failure upon its release, it has since become a deserved cult classic.
Labyrinth was Henson’s follow-up to The Dark Crystal (1982), another film featuring the amazing creatures and puppetry that have become synonymous with Henson’s name. Unlike The Dark Crystal though, Labyrinth features both a mix of human actors and creatures. The improved technology is evident as the creatures have more facial expressions. The characters are all likable and memorable including the antagonist Jareth the Goblin King, who is played by Bowie. The late musician steals every scene in which he appears and provides some great music that he wrote for the film. Highlights include Magic Dance and Underground. The two things that people seem to discuss most about Labyrinth are 1) David Bowie and 2) David Bowie’s package, which is featured prominently in the film. Bowie’s tights are a little too revealing and I will leave it at that. Connelly does a fine job in one of her earliest roles. Some have made the argument that the film is a metaphor for Sarah’s sexual awakening but I don’t see it.
My favorite supporting character is Sir Didymus, a brave fox knight and his fearful sidekick, Ambrosius, an Old English Sheepdog. They provide a lot of the film’s humor. The film is quite funny at times and has a very lighthearted mood. It never takes itself too seriously. The pacing is also very brisk. The most problematic thing about Labyrinth is its weak narrative, which does not really make any sense. What does it matter though? It is an excuse to show off the film’s amazing production design and visuals. Henson’s puppet magic and Brian Froud’s concept design are wonderful and combine to make this a film experience like no other.
Labyrinth was a film that I grew up watching as a kid and it was a fun nostalgic ride to revisit as an adult. There are so many great scenes, such as Sarah’s encounter with the talking worm wearing a scarf, the Magic Dance number, those creepy helping hands, and the Bog of Eternal Stench. The film does falter a bit in its climax, which comes off as a little rushed but the journey there is a blast.
Labyrinth is one of the strangest and most memorable fantasy films to emerge out of the 1980s. It is pure imagination and represents an incredible collaboration between two amazing artists: Jim Henson and David Bowie. This year marks the passing of Bowie and the thirtieth anniversary of the film so there is no better time than now to revisit this cult classic. Enter the Labyrinth, a place where things aren’t always what they seem.
Rating (out of ****): ***1/2