Jennifer in Wonderland
Having once again been forced to spend her evening babysitting her baby brother, Sarah (Jennifer Connelly - A Beautiful Mind) accidentally summons up the Goblin King (David Bowie - The Prestige) who whisks her little brother off to his castle. With no choice but to follow him into the fantasy world of the Goblin King, she must weave her way through the Labyrinth which protects the castle, befriend those who are trying to stop her and hopefully get her baby brother back before time runs out.
Visually "Labyrinth" is and impressive movie with Jim Henson's wonderfully detailed puppets, darker than what you would initially expect from the man behind the Muppets but stilly quirkily amusing. From the big to the small each of these puppets are characters in their own right with the wonderful worm and the curmudgeonly Hoggle being two of many wonderfully imaginative creations which make "Labyrinth" a treat for your eyes. Plus there are the wonderful sets built around an illusion theme with walls in the Labyrinth hiding exits and upside down staircases which always go up. You can get lost in the wonderful set designs which transport you off to this fairytale world of goblins, mazes and castles.
But "Labyrinth" is also clever, clever with some great witty moments such as the mischievous little goblins flipping the paving stones to hide Sarah's attempts to mark her route. But it is also clever in the way it draws from other influences. It felt like "Labyrinth" had been inspired by "The Wizard of Oz" and "Alice in Wonderland" but never to the point it feels like a second rate imitation. It takes ideas, such as the wild variety of characters which Sarah befriends on her travels through the Labyrinth and builds upon them. It takes elements such as puzzle doors, riddles and of course illusions to make for a movie which in many ways challenges your mind whilst also wowing your eyes.
Plus of course their is David Bowie who is not only a delight as the Goblin King, strutting around his kingdom delivering an creepy sense of semi camp fear but also provides various songs for the soundtrack with the memorable "Magic Dance" being one of the song and dance moments which brings "Labyrinth" to life.
But despite all of this, there seems to be something lacking, and whilst I enjoyed "Labyrinth" as a child in the late 80s now it just feels a little listless in places. The storyline itself, a basic fantasy about a heroine on her quest through a fantasy kingdom lacks a certain oomph, something which really gets you on the edge of your seat willing her on to succeed. And whilst I like Jennifer Connelly and her classic Jane Austen like characterization of Sarah she doesn't quite do it for me, ending up being an annoying, whinging teenager rather than someone I want to get behind.
Of course it's not a serious movie; "Labyrinth" is a movie of visual pleasure with imaginative illusions and cleverness in nearly every aspect of the journey through the maze. And as such these small gripes pale into insignificance when you become engrossed in all those minute details and heavily detailed puppet characters.
What this all boils down to is that "Labyrinth" is one of those movie which whilst not as good as I remembered from my childhood, still is a marvellously imaginative movie which will please you with it's fantasy sets, an inspired cleverness as well as a good string of humour threading it's way throughout the storyline. Even the couple of minor gripes don't spoil "Labyrinth" and it's no wonder that even now it still remains a popular movie both for 80s fans but also for those introduced to it at a later date.