Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
In my 'Dark Crystal' review I mentioned that the film gave me the heebie-jeebies when I was a kid. So, in the spirit of revisiting all things that made me cower in my younger years 'Labyrinth,' another classic Jim Henson film, was next on my list. However, this one didn't frighten me nearly as much as its predecessor, because this film actually incorporated much more of the 'Muppet' humor that Henson was known for.
Unlike 'The Dark Crystal,' 'Labyrinth' uses some actual real-life people in the main roles. For those of you who don't remember (how could you forget?) 'Labyrinth' stars a young Jennifer Connelly and an insanely over-the-top David Bowie. It also has the trademark puppets that run the gamut from terrifying to lovingly huggable.
The plot is simple enough. Aspiring young thespian, Sarah (Connelly), is tired of everything. You know how teenage girls get. The last straw comes when her brother, apparently steals her precious teddy bear named Lancelot. Doing what any rational nerdy teenager would do, she summons the Goblin King and his band of goblins to take her wretched brother away to his castle. It's all fun and games, like playing Bloody Mary with your friends in a dark bathroom, until a garishly dressed Bowie ends up in your house demanding your baby brother.
After giver's remorse sets in, Sarah begins to think that maybe giving her brother away to a strange man who came flying in through the window might have been a bad idea. In any case the castle is surrounded by a gargantuan labyrinth. Sarah must make it through the Labyrinth and to the castle within 13 hours or her brother will be gone…forever!
Maybe it's fitting that Connelly plays a young stage actor in this movie, because that's exactly what the acting feels like -- slightly overacted stage acting, with over exaggerated movements, sighs and gasps. It's funny at first, but Connelly's continuous overacting soon becomes grating. David Bowie as the Goblin King, ushers in a whole new era of weirdness. His creepy eye make up and obscenely tight fitting pants paint him as the exact person you would not want to have looking after kids. He also lends his vocals to a few songs. Apropos of nothing, Bowie and his goblin horde burst out in song a few times during the film.
The labyrinth Sarah travels through is peppered with outlandish puppet characters. She meets so many different ones it's impossible to list them here. They all have that distinct Henson charm though, but while 'Dark Crystal' took itself a little more seriously, the puppeteering and puppets in 'Labyrinth' are given more of a sense of humor.
'Labyrinth' is another classic Jim Henson creation that excels when his imagination takes center stage, but falters with some suspect acting from the two leads. It's more kid friendly than 'Dark Crystal' and will lend itself better to younger audiences. There are some parts that are still on the scary side, but nothing as downright creepy as the Skeksis. Overall, it's a fun nostalgic romp that you can revisit again and again.
For a film from the late 80s, this is a surprisingly clean transfer. The 1080p/AVC-MPEG 4 encoded transfer for the most part is free from dirt, scratches, and other flaws from the original source. Specks and dirt do pop up from time to time, but much less than I expected they would. Detail and textures are the big winners here. The scene at the beginning with the group of goblins waiting for Sarah to say the magic words is a richly detailed scene that captures the true spirit of this HD transfer (At times things can be a little too detailed. Case in point, Bowie's form fitting pants in HD aren't doing anyone any favors). Strings for the puppets and a harness for Connelly are also, at times, visible with this kind of resolution. There's a wide variety of colors presented here, and all of them are given a chance to show off. Blacks are even, and delineation exceeds expectations. It's a transfer that should make both serious fans and casual film watchers happy.
At first glance there's nothing glaringly wrong with the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track given to this film. Sound effects, and ambiance are presented clearly through the side and rear channels. The movie's synthesized 80s soundtrack harbors a great deal of LFE, and comes through quite well through all of the channels. Dialogue is presented clearly through the front channels, and directionality, while sometimes a little off, comes through fine. Upon closer inspection though, the songs here seem a bit hampered. At times it's hard to tell exactly what they are saying or singing about. Some of this softness in vocals during songs can be attributed to the odd voices of some of the puppet characters, but at times it's hard to hear exactly what lyrics Bowie is singing.
- Audio Commentary - Brian Froud, the film's Conceptual Designer, gives a similar commentary track here
as he did with 'Dark Crystal.' He talks about the some of the individual puppets, making the sets, and the digital artistry
they used during the beginning credits with the owl flying in and out of the frame. The baby, Toby, is actually Froud's son
(personally I thought the baby bared an uncanny resemblance to Oscar from 'Ghostbusters 2.').
- 'Inside the Labyrinth' Making-of Documentary (SD, 56 min) - Just like 'Dark Crystal,' 'Labyrinth'
also has an all encompassing making-of documentary that is just shy of an hour long. Tons of info about the production of
the project is here. It'd take forever to go over all, or even some of it. I will say that this is exactly the types of
things fans want to know about the show. It isn't full of fluffy EPK interviews. It's a must watch.
- Journey Through the Labyrinth: 'Kingdom of Characters' (SD, 27 min) - Focusing more on the characters
and individual puppets of the film, this feature takes us through every facet of putting a movie like this together.
Puppeteers take center stage here. How they control some of these puppets is as inventive as the puppets themselves.
- Journey Through the Labyrinth: 'The Quest for Goblin City' (SD, 30 min) - From the beginning of the
project to the finished product. This could be included in the making-of feature. It still provides a lot of interesting
information on the genesis of the film and how it came to be.
More nostalgia from the 80s has made its way to Blu-ray. This is a welcome upgrade from previous home video versions of the film. The cinematic feel of 'Labyrinth' has been retained in every way, but it has been given new life in HD. We can truly see the intricacies of the inventive puppets that Henson and company created. Silly acting aside, 'Labyrinth' is a fun-filled movie, full of imagination, and will garner repeat viewings. It comes highly recommended for any collection, and is a great companion piece to 'Dark Crystal.'
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