Release: June 27, 1986
Story: Sarah (played by Jennifer Connelly) is a, let’s be honest, bratty 15 year-old who always has her face buried in novels, playbooks and her own imagination. After yet another night of her baby brother being forced upon her while her father and step-mother have a night out, Sarah wishes the Goblin King from the play she is reading would take her brother away. The king, also known as Jareth (played by David Bowie), turns out to be real, and he does as she wishes. Sarah, not having meant the wish, must travel to Jareth’s fantasy kingdom if she hopes to save her brother. In her way is Jareth’s massive labyrinth full of twists, turns and unforeseen paths. If Sarah wishes to find her way through the magical maze and survive the creatures and perils within and around, she must ally herself with the untrustworthy dwarf Hoggle (voiced and co-puppeteered by Jim Henson’s son Brian Henson), a kindhearted giant of a beast called Ludo, and Sir Didymus, a small but ever courageous fox aided by his not so brave English Sheepdog, Ambrosius. Sarah only has 13 hours to make it through the maze before the Goblin King keeps her brother forever, and Jareth certainly won’t be playing it fair.
Thoughts: Labyrinth, the last movie directed by Jim Henson, is one of those films that failed to find an audience upon initial release but has since become a classic with legions of dedicated and loving fans. I remember the movie was played a lot at my house as a kid. It wasn’t for my enjoyment but my sister’s, who I believe was a huge fan of it at the time. I was always too scared by it to last long during a viewing. Coming to it for really the first time a couple years ago and again last night at the film’s 30th anniversary theater screening, I can say there’s much to recommend, even if I’m not as crazy about the movie as some others out there.
Jennifer Connelly isn’t the best young actress in the world. A number of her line readings are stilted and forced. BUT she’s still an enjoyable protagonist, and as my wife (who sites this as probably her favorite movie of all time) said, Sarah is a strong female character who doesn’t wait for the handsome man to save her from her situation but instead tackles the problem herself. That is rare even today, especially for a fantasy picture. Beyond that, the film is tremendously imaginative with its world, creatures and overall design. It’s very akin to Henson’s The Dark Crystal but with the humor of The Muppets thrown in. It’s a world that I find to be very odd and one that I, admittedly, don’t always enjoy from a style or tone perspective. It’s, however, totally Henson in every molecule of its DNA. I can’t think of anyone besides him who has brought a world like this to the big or small screen. The humor, while not up there with the best of The Muppets, is fun and the characters are lovable and memorable. Even the nasty Goblin King is likeable in his own very strange way. Despite any issues I have with it, Labyrinth is certainly worthy checking out. At the very least, it will teach you to be careful what you wish for the next time you’re annoyed with a sibling.