directed by Jim Henson
(TriStar, 1986)

No one understands Sarah -- not her father, and certainly not her stepmother, who always makes her take care of her baby brother Toby. Her only refuge is the park where she goes to act out the story of her favorite book The Labyrinth, in which the princess must go on a quest to rescue her brother from the Goblin King.

One evening, as Sarah is trying to quiet a fretful Toby, she utters the fateful words, "I wish the goblins would come and take you away -- right now." She hardly expects her wish to come true, but the goblins oblige and suddenly Sarah finds herself living out the story of her favorite book.

When the Goblin King appears, she begs to have Toby back. Jareth conducts her to his realm and gives her thirteen hours to solve the puzzle of the Labyrinth and find her way to the Goblin City; otherwise, Sarah's little brother will be lost forever.

And so Sarah sets out to reach the Goblin City at the center of the Labyrinth. Along the way, she acquires a motley assortment of characters: the gruff guide Hogle, Ludo, the strangely gentle monster with the sensitive nose, and Sir Didymus, with his cowardly steed Ambrosius.

"Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered," Sarah and her companions make their way through the Labyrinth and into the castle beyond the Goblin City. When Sarah finally confronts Jareth, she is surprised at how simple the answer to the Labyrinth's riddle truly is.

Sarah's journey is not just about finding her lost brother; it is also about growing up. Early in the movie, her frequent refrain is, "It's not fair!" Replies Jareth at one point, "You say that so often. I wonder what your basis for comparison is." Finally, she realizes that life is not necessarily fair, but one must take what comes. She begins to put away her childish games and toys and face the prospect of adulthood. She is not willing to completely release her childhood fantasies, though, as shown by the final party in her bedroom.

Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, it is ultimately Sarah who creates the creatures and landscapes of the Labyrinth. Everything to be found there can be found somewhere in her bedroom. The Fireys find their origin in a stuffed doll, she has a Labyrinth game on her table, the M.C. Escher print that is the inspiration for the setting of her final confrontation with Jareth hangs on her wall, the dress that she wears in the ballroom sequence is the same as one from a music box dancer.

The movie was designed by fantasy artist Brian Froud. Fans will recognize his handiwork, especially in the outside of the Labyrinth, the goblins, and the Wise Man and his Hat.

The score is by Trevor Jones with songs supplied by David Bowie. One particularly amusing number ("Magic Dance") is set in the throne room of Jareth's castle as he sings to baby Toby.

As expected in a movie directed by Jim Henson, the only live actors are those portraying Sarah, her father and stepmother, Jareth and Toby. Everyone else in the movie is a Muppet. David Bowie looks completely natural in the makeup of the Goblin King and Jennifer Connelly as Sarah is perfect.

Even though Labyrinth is 13 years old (Has it really been so long since I first saw it?), it is a classic movie, one that should be enjoyed again and again.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]

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