Beware, 80’s kids- I am here to pick apart your childhood classic. There is so much wrong with this movie, I don’t even know where to begin. Mind, there are moments of creative genius at play too, and the puppetry aspect of the film is, well… quite cool, even for a cynic like me. But it’s pretty sad when puppets outshine Jennifer Connelly’s Godawful acting and David Bowie’s mannered affectations as Jareth, the codpiece-donning goblin king (what the Hell people? This is a kid’s movie, is there really room for a villain with his pants stuffed so as to make his dick look big?)
Sarah (Connelly,) a bratty adolescent deep in the throes of puberty-induced teen angst, calls on the goblin horde from her favorite book to take her perpetually crying baby brother Toby (Toby Froud) away when she is forced to babysit him one stormy night. Much to her chagrin, the goblins, who are- unbeknownst to her- very real- take Toby away to the Goblin King (David Bowie)’s castle. Spurred on by regret and concern for her brother’s well-being (and for the allowance cut she will most certainly receive if her father (Christopher Malcolm) and step-mother (Shelley Thompson,) like, totally come home to find their son gone,) Sarah is taken to a magical land where she much brave the labyrinth- and Jareth’s cunning charms- in order to save her brother.
This seems like mostly a vehicle for musician David Bowie (Bowie sports lip gloss and awful hair, and, for no particular reason at all, bursts into song in several instances,) and I’ve heard rumors that Bowie regrets the project to some extent. I can see why. Allegedly the movie is a fantastical portrayal of the labyrinthine trials of puberty, and the connections are all too obvious. Connelly (who was better off going ass to ass in “Requiem for a Dream,”) can’t act to save her life poor dear.
She hems, haws, and blinks vacuously, but to be fair, the damage isn’t entirely her fault- the scriptwriter gives ‘Sarah’ the most inane lines imaginable. Moreover, unlike fantasy stories like “Harry Potter,” the ‘great evil’ (I.e. Jareth) that Sarah fights doesn’t seem that sinister at all. Weird and gay, yes. Sinister, no. Sure, Jareth wants to turn Sarah’s baby brother into a goblin and the sexual tension between him and Sarah seems Borderline pedo, but he fails as a truly malevolent or interesting presence. When Sarah meets up with him for the big confrontation, he spends half of the time singing (!) and the other half being humbled in the presence of her womanly power.
It’s bad when the most threatening presence in a film that strives to be epic fantasy is a stench-emitting, farting bog. That said, the puppets are wonderful. My personal favorite, Didymous the mace-wielding Chihuahua, was a steady mix of cute and cool. It was just so easy. Pit Sarah against any legit fantasy villain- Voldemort, Sauron, the baddies from Gaiman’s “Neverwhere”- and she would crumble like the inconsequential schoolgirl she is. Jareth’s main powers consist of looking fabulous and talking you to death, with an extra helping of ‘blah.’
“Labyrinth” leaves me conflicted in that I want the movie studios to bring puppetry back and use it on a better movie, My review is unfair in that the film didn’t have a part in my childhood, and fair for the exact same reason. Sentimentality can muddle your perception of the way things are. And “Labyrinth,” my friends, is no classic. You are free to leave comments championing your nondescript piece of whimsy. if you wish. It’s all the same to me. The puppets, the sets, some of the creative elements were awesome, sod all the rest.