Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Labyrinth (1986) review


   Jim Henson has impressed the mass family audience throughout the years with his many fantasy films and comedic variety, from The Dark Crystal to The Muppets. This movie is no exception; in fact, it meets in between fantasy and comedy. Since my childhood, this movie has kept me enthralled and coming back to visit the fantastic, creative world of the Labyrinth again and again, with excellent puppetry by Henson's crew, great soundtrack from the rockin' voice of David Bowie, and a whimsical sense of child-like fantasy that lets you know that you've been whisked away to another world. However, all good things age and get old after a while.

PLOT: Young Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is stuck in a rut with her family and obsessed with her favorite book, Labyrinth, about a wicked goblin king and his kingdom. One night when her parents leave her in the care of her baby brother, who won't stop crying for anything, she wishes that the goblins from her story will come take him away to their land forever. To her surprising dismay, her wish comes true and the evil goblin king, Jareth (David Bowie), and his army of goblins come to take her brother away. Now, she must navigate her way through the labyrinth that is the goblin kingdom, facing each new turn, situation, and creature with an open mind, especially her new "friend", Hoggle (Brian Henson), who's cowardly and grumpy, but knows the labyrinth better than anyone else she comes into contact with. The plot is very unique and whimsical, considering the main character is whisked away to the land in her favorite book. The execution is marvelous, taking the land of the labyrinth and adding more and more visually stunning characters and ridiculous situations. With all that's going on in this movie, there's no surprise that this is a classic fantasy film.

ACTING/VOICES: The acting in this film is very good. The stars of the show would definitely have to be Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie as Sarah and Jareth. Though Connelly's part as Sarah seems rather over-dramatic and amateurish, she seems to actually pull off the character that Sarah's supposed to be, and rather well: a book-obsessive, young teenager stuck in a rut and her own fantasy world. Bowie just plays the part as the wicked goblin king with ease and finesse, putting a wicked power in his hands only a professional could control. The voices for the puppet-characters are also very fitting: cartoonish and Henson-like. The best voices had to be from Brian Henson as Hoggle, Dave Goelz as Didymus, The Hat, the Four Guards, and the Left Door Knocker, David Healy as the Right Door Knocker, and Michael Hordern as the Wise Man. Henson and Goelz definitely were the best of the bunch, as they shed the true spirit of puppet voices. They were definitely fun and fitting.

SCORE: The score was very well done by Trevor Jones, a master of eighties synth and sound. The score gave the film more of a sound of wonder and whim. The soundtrack from rock master, David Bowie, was also very pleasant, with memorable, catchy songs, such as "Magic Dance" and "Chilly Down" and more in depth songs like "Underground" and "As the World Falls Down". Bowie's addition to the score definitely enhances the fact that this is a classic for fantasy fans and cult followers everywhere.

EFFECTS: The effects in this movie are excellent. Jim Henson's puppetry has been loved long before this for its cartoon joy, but in here, Henson's crew really shows what creativity can do with creating dozens of colorful characters, from an old man with a bird hat to red-haired monsters with removable limbs to four guards hidden behind a shield except for their heads. The creativity of the characters is definitely the best part of the movie, as well as the building of the sets for location. The labyrinth itself looks very well done and more realistic than a lot of CGI work done on films these days.

MISC. THOUGHTS: The movie itself is a trip into a completely-different world, not seen before by audiences around this time. So much is going on that you actually could be convinced that this movie could live and breathe with its own community. Simply put, this movie has been brought to life by its many perks of which Henson has installed. This was a childhood favorite of mine, and still rings true today as a classic in my book. However, growing older has revealed to me a couple of things about this movie. Firstly, the humor can span from slapstickish to potty humor to just family friendly jokes, and some of those jokes just end up growing old in the end, from the overall fear of "The Eternal Stench" to the goofball actions of the Fireys. The movie has a lot for everyone, but only at certain times for certain audiences, even more distinct than films today with references and wide spans of humor. Secondly, the tone in this movie tends to shift greatly sometimes, without warning. One minute you could be plunging into action, and the next you can be slowing down to an almost direct halt. A couple parts in particular would be the launching of Sarah into the labyrinth (fast, wastes no time) and the hallucinogenic dream from the apple's bite (slows the movie down greatly). The tone shifts sometimes seem effective, but not all the time.

   The Henson, fantasy classic definitely meets in the middle of dark and humorous, with wild fantasy and family humor laden throughout. The execution breathes life into the world Henson created, the acting puts Jennifer Connelly on the map and secures David Bowie's glam stardom, the score and soundtrack add memorable eighties sounds and music to the decade, and the whimsical feeling of fantasy drags the watcher away into a infinite world of possibility. However, the movie's humor becomes less relevant with age and the tone shifts become more noticeable.

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