Sunday, September 20, 2015

Movie #329: Labyrinth

Labyrinth is an 80s modern fantasy movie starring Jennifer Connolly, David Bowie, and a lot of muppets.

Young Sarah (Connolly) is a teenager, but is having trouble growing up. Her father (Christopher Malcolm) and stepmother (Shelly Thompson) are trying to be reasonable with her, but she insists on treating them like they're imposing huge burdens on her by asking her to be home on time and babysit her little brother (Toby Froud). Sarah's biological mother is or was an actress (it's never stated what happened to her in the film, though apparently in the novelization it's revealed that she left Sarah's father for another actor), and Sarah is obviously enamored of the theater and all things fantasy.

While trying unsuccessfully to get Toby to sleep, she summons up Jareth, the Goblin King (Bowie) to take Toby away. She immediately regrets it, and asks to have him back. Jareth generously gives her 13 hours to solve the Labyrinth and reclaim the baby, but he doesn't make it easy. Along the way he tries to dupe her into going back, drug her into forgetting all about it, and imprison her to keep her away. Sarah eventually does reclaim Toby, of course, with help from a goblin called Hoggle, a huge, stone-controlling beast called Ludo, and a stalwart fox knight named Didymus.

The movie is a lot of fun just on the face of it. Cael pointed out that the Bog of Eternal Stench has fart noises, and that was good enough to tickle his funny bone. The scene with the Fierys (you know, those weird red things that take their bodies apart) adds nothing to the movie, but beyond that it flows pretty well. The real craft of the movie, though, is in realizing that everything in the story is present in Sarah's room - Hoggle's a bookend, Didymus is a stuffed toy, the Labyrinth itself is a board game (and the title of the play she's reading from at the beginning of the movie), and so on. It's not hard to think of all this as Sarah coming to grips with the fact that, like it or not, she is getting older, and while she doesn't have to abandon fantasy and make-believe, she can't live there full time.

But the movie ends on the perfect note - Sarah realizes she can choose to party with her fantasy friends, and Jareth, in owl-form, flies off.

My grade: A-
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Ladyhawke