Weird Wednesday: Labyrinth

Welcome to the Soothsayer’s Weird Wednesday. I’m not the Soothsayer. For the month of November, I will be filling in on Wednesdays to allow our host to get that sleep he never gets and to bring you a different flavor of review. I’ll be taking a look into my own crystal ball to bring you my version of the truth, tying it into either a special say that arrives that week or a movie release on the Friday. Thanks for reading and enjoy.

There’s something to be said for the passion and heart that Jim Henson brought to all of his creative endeavors. There’s a kooky fun involved with THE MUPPET SHOW and sentimental about SESAME STREET. No matter what he focused on you could feel how much he cared about telling a great story, and about the characters and world he was creating.

In 1986 Jim Henson directed LABYRINTH, a darker fantasy tale than he had previously attempted, only to be met with commercial failure. It was a low point in his life since he had put just as much of his time, energy and heart into his vision as he had for any other muppet movie.

LABYRINTH tells the story of a young woman named Sarah, played by Jennifer Connelly before she grew up into an Oscar winning actress, who wishes her baby brother away only to have her wish granted by Jareth the Goblin King, a fun performance by David Bowie. She immediately regrets her wish and begs Jareth to return her brother. Now what kind of villain would give back a perfectly good baby? Instead Jareth challenges Sarah to reach his castle by traversing the titular labyrinth.

The quest is an archetypal story for fantasy films and LABYRINTH wastes no time getting into it. Sarah meets many odd and interesting creatures, most notably Hoggle a small craggy faced creature, Ludo a lumbering behemoth and Didymus a fox-like swordsman.

The adventurer meeting three allies is similar to classic films like WIZARD OF OZ or THE PRINCESS BRIDE except in this case everyone Sarah meets is a Jim Henson creation. The movie doesn’t lose any of the fun by replacing her fellow adventurers with muppets but instead gains a surrealistic bent, as if the film were a nightmare. In fact Henson plays up that feeling by having weird asides of dream spells and hallucinations.

With interludes for songs written and performed by Bowie the movie can be extremely fun but it loses steam. Rather than building towards the end LABYRINTH devolves into a string of incidents. One bizarre creature encounter after another and one dangerous locale leads into the next. Everything is lovely to behold but the story lags. Henson tries to add a little more depth to Hoggle’s character but fails to add any to Ludo or Didymus. Vast portions of the second act feel flat as a result.

There is a return to form once they reach the castle and Sarah has to confront Jareth in a staircase filled room straight out of an M.C. Escher drawing but it comes a little too late. The ending comes suddenly and without any warning and you wonder why any of this had to happen in the first place. Was it really all a dream?

LABYRINTH is a labour of love and can be fun but it is too long without more plotting to keep it fresh. David Bowie revels in his performance and Jennifer Connelly shows flashes of the talent she will grow into but the movie still fails to reach it’s potential.

2.5 out of 5

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