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Running Time: 102 minutes
Starring: David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly
Screenplay by: Terry Jones
Directed by: Jim Henson
Retail Price: $19.95
Features: Theatrical Trailers, Talent Files, "Inside the Labyrinth" Making-Of Documentary
Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections
Released: October 12th, 1999
Take one part "Alice in Wonderland", one part "The Wizard of Oz", stir, then look through the eyes of a crack addict and you've got Jim Henson's 1984 family film "Labyrinth." Hopefully this opening gives you an idea of how wacky and abnormal the movie is. However, this is not a bad thing. The movie is entertaining, imaginative, and unique. In fact, this one has a "They don't make 'em like that anymore" feeling written all over it that has caused it to age like fine wine.
"Labyrinth" follows the story of a fantasy-loving teenage girl named Sarah (a young Jennifer Connelly) who is frustrated by life with her baby stepbrother Toby. One night, Sarah is left at home to watch after her brother following an argument with her parents. Reciting lines from her book "Labyrinth" while feeling rage towards Toby, she says words that she does not mean. "I wish the goblins would come and take you away." She recites. Low and behold it actually works. Bizarre goblins steal Toby and take him away to the land of Sarah's book, and so begins Sarah's quest through a strange world to save her brother from the Goblin King (David Bowie) before he becomes the goblins' possession forever.
Admittedly, the quick set up to "Labyrinth" may seem like a bit much. Fear not, for this very visual story is special because of the sights, sounds, situations, and places. The moment that Sarah steps into the fantasy world, fun truly begins. Jim Henson's direction is truly brilliant, as he has successfully created a world of imagination here that, similar to the "Alice" books, has surprises around every corner. Henson has used a variety of puppet creatures as he has in his other films, and they are truly a large part of what make this movie special. The viewer never knows what to expect next. There are goblins with the best qualities of the Muppets, a talking worm, magical staircases, hundreds of strange creatures, visual illusions, and an awe inspiring metal monster to name only a small helping of the sights and experiences that stand between Sarah and her goal in Goblin City. David Bowie's performance as the Goblin King is quite entertaining as he gives a performance similar to that of the Wicked Witch of the West from "the Wizard of Oz" with his own spin. He is responsible for a variety of quirky musical numbers that truly amuse. These include a rock song with back up from the hilarious Muppet-like goblins, a dark, menacing tune, and a slow ballet-like melody. The latter is played during a surreal ballroom sequence that is a sight to behold. Combine these things with special effects that are seemingly ahead of their time, and you have the marvel of creativity and imagination that is "Labyrinth." This movie takes inspiration from the classic works of children's lit and fantasy, but Henson's work is truly his own unique recipe. Even today, the elaborate puppets in this movie are incredibly impressive. Their movement, body language, and facial expressions truly bring them alive and mirror the mannerisms of classic cartoon characters. They are just as funny and convincing, as well as great fun to watch. Beautifully crafted characters like these are the main reason why Jim Henson was able to create children's movies that could appeal to adults. "Labyrinth," an example of one of these movies, is an excellent example of his filmmaking skill.
As mentioned earlier, I have some small gripes with the movie, such as its set up. The idea that the goblins simply come to Sarah's realistic world and leave seems a bit rushed. Also, a very small few of the special effects do come off as a bit dated as well (the black outlines around the "head-lifting" forest creatures comes to mind). Also, the solution to one of the problems in the movie is made a little too obvious early on, and seems to have been given little thought. In the end, though, these small issues hardly matter as the movie fires on all cylinders when it comes to excitement and visual direction. It seems to combine the imagination of "The Dark Crystal" with the fun of "The Muppet Movie." You'll be hard pressed to find more fun and creativity anywhere else. And really, what more do you need? Those who enjoy only "deep" or "challenging" movies need not apply, but those looking for a film suitable for the whole family that entertains like no other should do themselves a favor and check this one out.
For the most part, a decent showing. This one's presented in anamorphic widescreen, but the transfer could probably be better. There's a good bit of film grain at the beginning, which lessens quickly. However, noticeable grain continues to pop up, and there are some moments, such as the moments before the first encounter with the "Bog of Eternal Stench," where flashes of distorted color pop up for a short time. Some of the darker scenes seemed a bit muddled, as though the negative needed a bit of cleaning. This seems negative, but for the most part the transfer was adequate, especially considering the age of the film.
This disc runs with 2-channel Dolby Surround that gets the job done, but I would have liked to have more sound coming from the back speakers. Most of the sound is confined to the front and center, and only a few scenes, such as the wooly creature Lodo's roars, made use of the back speakers. The mix is good however. Dialogue, music, and sound effects are all clear, despite being confined to the front.
The "Inside the Labyrinth" Making-of documentary on the disc is very nice indeed, despite the image being a bit distorted and unclear. Interviews with the cast and crew are sprinkled throughout, as well as the setting up of some shots and stunts, but it is truly something special to see Jim Henson and his team hard at work with the puppets in the film. The preliminary design of the puppets, their construction and operation are all shown in detail, making this a very solid and informative documentary. The disc also holds Trailers for "Labyrinth," "The Storyteller," and "The Dark Crystal," as well as some standard Production Notes and Talent Files.
"Labyrinth" is a wonderful movie. Any fan of Jim Henson should rush out and grab this one, as should anyone with a love of fantasy. After all, it's doubtful that we'll see anything quite like this again any time soon. It should be easy to find it for $16.95, and with the movie and the excellent documentary included, it's definitely worth a look. If you're a kid, or if you remember that you used to be one, consider purchasing this discÉ. Or even better the 2 pack of "Labyrinth" and the magical "The Dark Crystal."