Released in: 1986
Directed by: Jim Henson
Starring: David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly
Plot: Sarah (Jennifer Connelly), a fifteen year old girl still living in a world of make-believe, wishes that her half-brother Toby be taken away by the Goblin King. The Goblin King, Jareth (David Bowie) duly appears and takes him away. Sarah must then fight her way through the Goblin King’s mysterious and serpentine Labyrinth to get him back. Along the way, she makes many friends, and learns to have faith in herself.
First of all – I love this movie. I first saw it a few weeks ago…so I was at least a decade outside of Henson’s target audience (he made the film for children, but it has a smart quality to it that adults also love). I still adored it. The film weaves many classic, fairy-tale motifs into its plot while still being original. The wicked stepmother is there, as is the Goblin King. It’s true that there’s no Goblins in my neck of the fairy tale woods, but over in France the famous tale “Ricky of the Tuft” has a Gnome-King who very much reminds me of Jareth. Except for the fact that the Gnome King is ugly and Jareth is, well, David Bowie.
The fairy tale that this charming film has the most in common with is of course Alice in Wonderland. The characters that Sarah meets and the ways in which they act remind me of the absurd Wonderland creatures. For example, Sarah meets a pack of strange animals that like to take themselves apart, and they proceed to try and decapitate her as well. Their cries of “off with her head!” certainly reinforced the connection a bit. Like in Wonderland, irony abounds. Sarah encounters two doors, with heads for knockers. One head carries his knocker in his mouth, and can’t speak. The other has his hanging from his ears, and can’t hear. But ultimately, the Labyrinth, like Wonderland, is a world where nothing is as it seems. Jareth’s Palace is a Surrealist creation, as if it had jumped out of an M.C. Escher book. Beautiful, delicate fairies would actually like nothing better than to eat you for breakfast. The Labyrinth’s walls can be walked through. It is all, in short, a lot of fun!
There is only one bone I have to pick with this movie. The songs are ridiculous. Somehow it just doesn’t work for me when David Bowie starts singing “Dance Magic Dance! Jump Magic Jump!” But thankfully, these songs are few and far between.
This is a film for all ages, that doesn’t underestimate children’s intelligence, and is kooky and weird (there are definitely a lot of sexual vibes going off from Bowie to Connelly) to entertain adults.