Hey, kids! It’s Dash Jordan here and it’s finally here! Yes! Today marks the 30th Anniversary of one of the greatest cult films of all time, created by three of the most talented, respected, and imaginative minds in entertainment. Of all of the classic films to review, I’ve wanted to talk about this one for the longest time. Trust me, even if David Bowie was still with us right now, it would still be an honor to open up this childhood memory. So, this is not just a celebration of just any film. This is also a celebration of a film that, to this day, still has a mesmerizing aura from a truly mesmerizing talent. Unfortunately, some jackoff from Channel Awesome had to go and beat me to it a few months ago!
Shut up, Critic! You know what? That’s why I got to review ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ before you & Angry Joe did. Ha! I beat you to it, and I did it deliberately! I did it deliberately! HA HA HA HA HA! Ahem, right. Back to the exciting world of ‘Labyrinth’, where everything seems possible and nothing is what it seems. But…
…it kinda seems like an awesome acid trip, personally.
‘Labyrinth’ is a 1986 fantasy musical directed by Jim Henson and executive produced by George Lucas. The film is centered around Sarah, a teenage girl who grows tired of having to babysit her little brother. She unknowingly wishes the baby away to a mystical maze-like world of fairies, goblins, and puzzles; ran by Jareth, the Goblin King. So we follow Sarah as she’s in a race against time to reach the center of the Labyrinth and save her brother before Jareth completely owns him and turns him into a Goblin.
Yeah, I think it’s also worth pointing out that people in 1986 weren’t nearly as generous as they are nowadays. ‘Labyrinth’ has received mixed to positive reviews upon release and only made a little more than half of its $25 Million budget back in the box office. However, the sands of time have been kind and ‘Labyrinth’ has since gone on to become a cult classic and has been widely regarded as one of Jim Henson’s best work. You know something? They’re right! I wasn’t aware of any negative reviews when I was little and I didn’t care. I remember the very first time I’ve ever seen this film on TV. I was a pretty smart kid, so when I saw the name “Jim Henson” I knew I was in for something truly amazing. I know a lot of my fellow Jim Henson fans out there may be more partial to ‘The Dark Crystal’. However, I feel that Henson creates a much more chaotic and fun fairytale world, while still having just a tiny bit of that dark edge carried over from his 1982 classic. Whenever I managed to dig up this movie, I always get taken back to the days where I still believed in “movie magic”. To this day, I can never figure out how Henson and his team managed to make most of what we see in this movie come to life. THAT is filmmaking at its finest.
Of course, the look and effects of a film can only be as good as its script. Enter former ‘Monty Python’ member, Terry Jones. The man has been responsible for a lot of work on ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’, it many films, as well as plenty of his own stories and children’s books. So I can understand why they got him to write the script. Not to say that’s perfect or anything, it’s a very simplistic plot with a pretty weak opening. It’s only until Sarah meets with the Goblin King that the film truly begins. At the same time, however, Jones’ script still adds to the magic and charm the film tries to convey. Not to mention, some pretty hilarious and memorable moments.
As far as the acting…let’s be honest, is there really any point discussing David Bowie’s performance as the Goblin King? By far, the most memorable and iconic thing about ‘Labyrinth’. I’ve mentioned mostly good things about this movie, but even still, I could never imagine how ‘Labyrinth’ may have turned out without Ziggy Stardust in the mix. Keep in mind, other legendary talents in music were also considered for the role of Jareth. I’m talking guys like Prince, Sting, and Michael Friggin’ Jackson. But in the end, only Bowie’s hypnotizing and otherworldly presence, charisma and charm would’ve felt right for a movie like this.
Besides, as much as I love Prince, I think we can all agree that seeing The Kid dancing in high-heels and strumming his guitar around a group of Muppets while trying to seduce a 14-year old Jennifer Connelly would’ve automatically granted this movie a damn X rating.
Speaking of Jennifer Connelly, we obviously know that she’s now regarded as a very talented, gifted and beautiful actress. However, it’s interesting to see how Connelly was slowly evolving into that early on in her career. While she may not have been the best actor in this film, she was still able to hold her own with Bowie; who had already proven himself to be capable as an actor at this point. She may have been in better films and acted better in her future movies, but it’s her performances in both this movie and in the 1985 Dario Argento film, ‘Phenomena’ that helped me grow respect for the hard work she’s put in during her career.
Now, I think it would be unfair for me to talk about the main actors and not even mention the puppeteers in this film, as I feel that they were biggest aspects of this film coming to life. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop were in rare form when it came to the production of ‘Labyrinth’. They worked their absolute hardest to come up with the designs and specific movements for each puppet, there was almost no two alike. By far, the best puppet work being Hoggle.
You see that? Yes, that may be a dwarf actor, but that’s not makeup. It took about four people just to make sure every part of this character worked perfectly. Every single movement, especially the eyes and mouth was done flawlessly for such a flawed character. You hate him at first, then you find him amusing and charming. Next thing you know, you start to hate him again, and then you grow to love and feel bad for the character. Again, all of the puppet work is good. But, if I had to pick my least favorite puppet characters, I’m afraid it would have to be the Fire Gang and Sir Didymus. I’ve already mentioned how that Fire Gang scene was mostly annoying filler when I talked about the song ‘Chilly Down’ in my review of the film’s soundtrack, so I won’t drag on too much…like that scene did, Boom!
My head doesn’t come off, idiot! My head outsmarts and offends, thank you! Anywho, as far as Sir Didymus, he’s essentially supposed to be the polar opposite of Hoggle. Sir Didymus is essentially a courageous and fiery soldier, whereas Hoggle is a cowardly and selfish pessimist. Which is fine, at first. But then he starts becoming pretty damn annoying. Keep in mind that I’m not speaking ill of the puppetry, I’m only stating my personal feelings towards the characterizations of the puppets.
Anyway, let’s move back to the film’s story for just a bit. I don’t mean just looking at the script again, I mean reading between the lines of the film’s script. I know, a lot of people have already talked about the many themes, theories and metaphors of this movie, and it’s possible you may have heard it all before. But, I would still like to put in my two cents. I’m actually surprised at how mature parts of the script is, looking back. Take away the music, the effects, and set pieces for a moment. I have to agree with people who say that the story of ‘Labyrinth’ is a coming-of-age story. The way I look at it as an adult, ‘Labyrinth’ is all about the wonder, ignorance, and innocence of childhood versus the maturity, responsibility, and danger of adulthood. Remember what Jareth says to Sarah, “Play with your toys and your costumes…forget about the baby.” and “Turn back, Sarah…before it’s too late.” The very character of Jareth is first viewed by Sarah as this threatening yet intelligent monster who just kidnapped her brother, but not only does she start seeing him more alluring and possessive as the film progresses, but slowly starts to build the courage to stand up to him. Sarah is the everywoman; the kind of girl who would always cling to her teddy bears and tiaras growing up, but would eventually have to put away childish things in order to survive their battle against puberty, sexuality, and the care of a child. Jareth is essentially the amalgamation of what every growing girl fears, loves, and conquers as they become women; he is the misunderstanding of young boys, the ever-growing attraction of young boys, and the fear of responsibility all rolled into one.
Back in my review of the film’s soundtrack, I mentioned how I wasn’t going to cover the film’s score until now and wanted to focus more on Bowie’s music. Now, there’s time to mention Trevor Jones’ music. Much like the song ‘Within You’, Jones’ score blends your typical fantasy-inspired music with cues from 80s synthesizers and guitars; which all comes together in a very unique and fun listening experience.
Listen, guys…I know I said that the next review was going to be your request but I couldn’t resist. Next time, I promise will be Request Time. Besides, I’d figure this would be a good enough present, especially for today. Call me generous, but this movie has always left me in a good mood every time I watch it. Of course, there’s a few minor setbacks in the film’s story and one or two overly campy moments that may take away from the experience for some people. Even still, ‘Labyrinth’ has lasted for 30 years and will continue to live on for a number of good reasons. A haunting and charismatic performance from David Bowie(as always), amazing music from both Bowie and Trevor Jones, a very competent and identifiable performance from a young Jennifer Connelly, an intriguing and simple fairytale plot, beautiful set and costume designs, and a completely immersive fantasy world of twists, turns, and oddities created by the legendary Jim Henson. What kind of magic spell to use? And the Dash-man said, “Go watch ‘Labyrinth’!” Happy 30th Anniversary! Thank you guys for joining me on this journey, and I also thank the cast & crew for creating a film that has not only been a part of our childhood but has always managed to transcend and emerge in our adulthood. Once again…I promise, next time it will be Request Time!
Until then, Gotta Dash…Magic Dash! Dash Magic Dash!
Written by Shane Moose
Special thanks to the three big F’s in my life(Friends, Family & Fans) for helping me get this far, pushing me to go even further and for putting up with me when I try going further than that. To hell with my limitations!
…and a VERY special thanks to Jim Henson & David Bowie for everything you’ve done. One day, we’ll all be face to face with The Father of The Muppets & The Man Who Sold The World once again.
Videos & Photos:
(All Jim Henson & Muppet-related images are property of The Jim Henson Company)
(I do NOT own any songs featured in this article. All songs featured are owned by David Bowie, their respective labels & producers)
All images and video clips of Prince are property owned by his estate(Paisley Park Studios)
(All WWE/WWF related images are property of WWE)
Labyrinth(owned by TriStar Pictures & Lucasfilm)
Nostalgia Critic(owned by Doug Walker & Channel Awesome, Inc.)
The Hudsucker Proxy(owned by Warner Bros., Silver Pictures, Working Title Films & PolyGram Filmed Entertainment)