Labyrinth: Anniversary Edition – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Directed by
Jim Henson

Cast:
David Bowie … Jareth the Goblin King
Jennifer Connelly … Sarah
Toby Froud … Toby
Shelley Thompson … Stepmother
Christopher Malcolm … Father
Natalie Finland … Fairy
Shari Weiser … Hoggle
Brian Henson … Hoggle/Goblin (voice)
Ron Mueck … Ludo/Firey 2/Goblin (voice)
Rob Mills … Ludo/Firey 3
Dave Goelz … Didymus/The Hat/The Four Guards/Left Door Knocker/Firey 3 (voice) (as David Goelz)
David Alan Barclay … Didymus/Firey 1
David Shaughnessy … Didymus/The Hat/The Four Guards/Goblin (voice) (as David Shaughnessy)
Karen Prell … The Worm/The Junk Lady/Firey 2
Timothy Bateson … The Worm/The Four Guards/Goblin (voice)
Frank Oz … The Wiseman
Michael Hordern … The Wiseman (voice)
Denise Bryer … The Junk Lady (voice)


The Movie:

It’s usually when watching a soulless, CGI over-run Adventure film that I miss creators like Jim Henson the most. For all the silliness his Muppets and puppets provided over the years, his creations were always inventive and inspired, never feeling tired or out of place in the worlds he created. This was true of his film The Dark Crystal, in which he, Co-Director Frank Oz, and Designer Brian Froud created a unique fantasy world inhabited entirely by puppets. This was also true of Henson’s Labyrinth, in which he took a foundation from similarly themed tales such as The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland and fashioned a world in his distinctive voice, full of wonder and glorious humor.

Just like those archetypes, the story is actually a metaphor for the end of adolescence, and giving up childish wants and concerns. Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) wants only to live in her fairytale world with her dolls and costumes, but real life keeps intruding, especially having to look after her small brother Toby (Toby Froud). One night, all of Sarah’s child-like dreams manifest in the form of Jareth the Goblin King (David Bowie), who whisks her brother away to his kingdom, giving Sarah the option of either abandoning her brother to him, so she can forget all about her responsibilities, or she may try to rescue him, but with only 13 hours to do so before Toby becomes a goblin himself. Choosing to save her brother, Sarah must traverse Jareth’s Goblin Kingdom, which is surrounded by a giant labyrinth that she will have to navigate in order to get to the king’s castle in the center.


While the story is quite simple and straightforward, it’s the world that Henson and others create that really make this film memorable. All of the film’s puppets, from the hundreds of goblins to even the door knockers in this world, have a distinctive visual look and individual charm to them, giving this Fantasy world a flavor all its own. In true Wizard of Oz-like fashion Sarah also gains some companions; the giant, hairy Luto (Ron Mueck), the cowardly Hoggle (Shari Weiser), and the ferocious, but tiny Didymus (Dave Goelz and others). Each have their individual faults, but together make a terrific team that Sarah must depend on to save Toby.

Watching the film 21 years after its release, you really notice it’s the film’s computer generated visual effects that seem terrible now, while the movie’s puppet work is still phenomenal. The work done by the Henson Creature Workshop is some of the best ever done, with every single creature coming off as life-like as any ever produced. I especially love the first few goblins shown on screen, with Henson and Screenwriter Terry Jones’ dry humor coming to the forefront, and giving the little creatures real personality.

It’s that humor that really makes for the pleasant vibe the entire movie has. There’s a terrific scene in which Hoggle yells at a bunch of stone faces who are trying to get Sarah to turn back. When one explains that he’s just doing his job, Hoggle relents and lets him give the warning anyway, even though they’re not paying attention. Another sequence with Sarah trying to talk a couple of doorknockers into letting her pass is also quite delightful.


The two actors working in the middle of this chaos are doing fine work as well. Jennifer Connelly does come off as a little green early on in this film, but really seems to find her stride once the adventure kicks into high gear. It probably wasn’t much of a stretch for David Bowie in the mid 80’s to play the personification of the dreams and hopes of a young girl, being he was one of the biggest Rock Stars in the world at the time. Here, I like that he comes off as regal, but still edgy and a little scary. His scenes together with Connelly are quite good, but his scenes with Henson’s puppets are even better to tell you the truth.

Labyrinth is a film that works because Henson’s particular vision of adolescence is one that is easily identifiable on a personal level, but at the same time is still a wondrous visual spectacle. With terrific humor and a fun musical score, the movie is pure delight from beginning to end, even if it’s unfortunate it seems that some of the visual effects were stretched a little further than they should have been; especially considering this was produced by George Lucas. Still Henson’s heart and visual creativeness shine through Labyrinth, making it a film that will welcome revisiting for years to come.


The DVD:

The Video
The film looks rather good on this edition, and probably better than it looked in the theater. The print has been cleaned up nicely and the film’s real beauty is brought to the forefront with the nice, clear picture. The film is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1

The Audio
The Audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and is also pretty great. Bowie’s songs burst fourth on this soundtrack and they come in crystal on this disc. Also, all the dialogue is quite clear and never overmatched by score or sound effects.


SPECIAL FEATURES:

Audio Commentary by Conceptual Designer/Supervisor Brian Froud – This is a loving, but kind of dry commentary track by Froud, who goes on a lot about how he came to design creatures and other aspects of the film. He talks about concepts and how he came up with different things, but it would have been nicer to have more anecdotes. The best story from this track involves how Jim Henson really wanted chickens to be featured in the film’s final battle, but unfortunately they didn’t follow queues very well.

Inside the Labyrinth – This is a 60-minute vintage documentary about the making of the film. It was also available on previous editions of the movie. It’s awesome to see Jim Henson in his element here, working with people and guiding them to get what he wants on screen. It really just makes you miss him even more and shows how much effort he put into this film. Also, it’s cool to see Gates McFadden, from Star Trek: The Next Generation on here, but not as an actor. She was one of the choreographers on this picture.

Kingdom of Characters – This is a terrific half hour Featurette, with everyone from George Lucas to Brian Henson talking about their experiences on the movie. It would have been nice to hear from Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie on here, but alas they are not to be found. I love the portion on this disc where they show the giant robot and how it was constructed, made of real metal.

The Quest for Goblin City – This Featurette also goes about 30 minutes and talks more about the concepts that were involved in developing the story. Again, a lot of cast and crew return to talk about the making of the film, and we also get a lot of vintage footage from screen tests and what not.

Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery

Cast and Character Photo Gallery

Concept Art Photo Gallery

Storyboards

Vintage Posters Gallery

Trailers

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for
Labyrinth: Anniversary Edition
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

8
THE VIDEO

8
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

8
REPLAY VALUE

9.5
OVERALL
8.5
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

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