For this year’s A-To-Z Challenge, my theme is MOVIES. I will be working my way through the alphabet during the month of April with movie titles and short blurbs about each movie. Today’s movie is “Labyrinth.”
“Labyrinth” was a 1986 British-American fantasy film, directed by Jim Henson, produced by George Lucas, and starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly. The movie was a dark, semi-musical, glam-rock children’s movie that seems to combine The Wizard of Oz and a Maurice Sendak story and starred David Bowie plus a cavalcade of puppets.
At the time of its release, “Labyrinth” was a technical marvel. Henson relied almost entirely on practical effects, building the creatures and sets and including almost no computer animation. The Hoggle puppet alone involved 18 motors and a four-person team. That reliance on physical materials rather than computers means that, while some aspects of “Labyrinth” seem dated, the world inside its maze has aged rather well.
The film is about a petulant teenager, Sarah (Jennifer Connelly at 14) with an active imagination. She lives in a fantasy world but is constantly being dragged back down to earth by the dreary realities of her life, including her perpetually wailing baby half-brother, Toby. One night while babysitting, Sarah wishes to the “goblin king” that Toby would disappear — and he does, earning Sarah a visit from the actual Goblin King (David Bowie).
The Goblin King, whose name is Jareth, transports Sarah to his labyrinth and gives her 13 hours to find her way to his castle and rescue her brother. Jareth threatens that if she fails, Toby will become a goblin forever.
Guarding his castle is the labyrinth itself, a twisted maze of deception, populated with outrageous characters and unknown dangers. To get through it in time to save Toby, Sarah must make her way through the maze. She encounters a lot strange residents within the labyrinth and ultimately befriends the Goblins, in hopes that their loyalty isn’t just another illusion in a place where nothing is as it seems. Along the way, Sarah learns important lessons about friendship, independence, and the misfortune of being attracted to an older man in very tight pants.
Though the movie initially flopped, it has become a cult classic. Critics praised Bowie’s performance. The New York Times wrote that Bowie was “perfectly cast as the teasing, tempting seducer whom Sarah must both want and reject in order to learn the labyrinth’s lessons, and his songs add a driving, sensual appeal.”
On a personal note, this was one of my then young daughter’s favorite movies. It still is, actually, and she’s 42 now.