Film Review: Labyrinth (1986)

labyrinth

Labyrinth is the product of a bizarre but winning combination of creative talents. Director Jim Henson reunites with Dark Crystal conceptual deisgner Brian Froud for a comic fantasy adventure produced by George Lucas and scripted by Monty Python’s Terry Jones. The movie is further energized by David Bowie, who plays the villainous Goblin King. Bowie also wrote several catchy tunes for the film. These disparate forces could have been the recipe for disaster, but Labyrinth works — it’s musical, it’s magical, it’s highly imaginitive, and it’s a lot of fun.

It’s basically the story of an impetuous teenaged girl (played by young, pre-Oscar winning Jennifer Connelly) who inadvertently wishes her squalling baby brother into the hands of the Goblin King (Bowie), a riddling but sultry tyrant who lives in the middle of a fantastic labyrinth filled with colorful characters. Connelly teams up with a handful of characters brought vibrantly to life by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop and they storm the Goblin King’s castle to rescue the baby. But however serious any of this may sound, it’s not. After The Dark Crystal, Henson wanted Labyrinth to have a very different tone, so the action never gets too intense, whackiness abounds, and Bowie’s musical numbers — an ebullient mixture of pop and gospel — keep the film floating along.

But there’s also some interesting sexual subtext to sink your teeth into. Consider the relationship between Bowie’s Goblin King and Connelly’s character, a 15-year old on the cusp of womanhood. They’re definitely adversaries, but they’re also attracted to each other. In the middle of the movie there’s a gorgeous ballroom masquerade where the two characters play out their romantic tension to one of Bowie’s songs. Connelly runs away from his advances, only to confront them again in the movie’s climax, where Bowie begs her, “Fear me. Love me. Do as I say, and I’ll be your slave forever.”

Pretty kinky for a puppet show.

Rating: 4/5 ★★★★☆ 

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About Scott_S

Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit www.scottschirmer.com. Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)

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