Labyrinth may be the most heinous crime committed against the human mind at the hand of muppeteers. It’s not awful, it’s not even bad – it’s just a total mind screw from the first Bowie appearance on out. Who’s the movie really for? I still say it should be shown to children. The images in Labyrinth were and remain some of the most bizarre things a muppet has ever done. Bird-things dancing on their heads, a fox riding saddleback on a dog or a tunnel full of faces made out of hands – suspend your disbelief indefinitely, otherwise there’s no hope for you enjoying this one.
Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) wishes her parents would spend more time paying attention to her and not her infant brother Toby. Her fraternal resentment peaks when she’s left to babysit the runt as her parents go out for a night on the town and she discovers one of her prized stuffed animals lying next to her brother’s crib. Now, people funnel their frustrations in any number of ways. Some write in a journal. Some squeeze a stress ball. Some exercise. Others, who I maintain are a larger minority than most realize, pray to the Goblin King to take away the source of their stress. It shouldn’t be a surprise that so many people use this option considering the Goblin King has a striking resemblance [read: is] David Bowie. The Goblin King whisks her brother away to his castle in the middle of a twisted labyrinth and gives Sarah a deadline to rescue the child before he becomes property of the Goblin Kingdom. Sarah begins her journey through the labyrinth and befriends the noble fox Sir Didymus (Dave Goelz, David Alan Barclay), the Goblin custodian Hoggle (Shari Weiser, Brian Henson) and the rock-singing (as in sings to rocks, not sings rock n’ roll) Ludo (Ron Mueck, Rob Mills).
While not as brooding as The Dark Crystal, which preceded it by four years, Labyrinth has the same talented people to credit for its creation and inspiration. There’s a certain level of prestige that comes with a Muppet movie which actually has Jim Henson helming it as its director. Muppet purists would argue that the post-Jim Henson films are atrocities to be shunned; when you have the privilege to indulge in one like this, which has the original Muppet god behind it, you should jump at the chance. Another interesting name in the Labyrinth credits is Terry Jones, one of the brilliantly twisted minds behind British comedy troupe Monty Python. Terry Jones always had a sort of secondary hand in the live skits of the Python Circus but was especially known for his odder than odd paper cut-out bumpers which would work as segues between bits. The paper-made visuals were always bizarre and Labyrinth benefits immensely from that out-of-this world approach to reality.
The Blu-ray transfer of Labyrinth can only bring so many perks. After all, the true glory of the film is that it’s not about special effects but puppets. So you can’t really complain when the Blu-ray’s upscaling of the resolution only has a few noticeable moments. Where it might matter a little bit more is on the audio, because anything that can be done to make David Bowie sound awesomer…well who’s going to complain?
Blu-ray Bonus Features
What’s really nice about the Blu-ray version of Labyrinth is that it’s not just a transparent copy and paste job from one format to the next. So many studios just say “Screw it” and give us nothing but the DVD on a new disc. In that vein, Labyrinth on Blu-ray still comes with the audio commentary by Brian Froud (the conceptual designer and costume designer for the film), the terrifically informative “making of” documentary “Inside the Labyrinth”, and two other featurettes about character and set design. What makes the Blu-ray copy of Labyrinth worth purchasing? The new picture-in-picture commentary (which is the current best use of Blu-ray potential studios have discovered so far) features interview footage with Warwick Davis, Muppet-makers Rollin Krewson and Connie Peterson, makeup artist Nick Dudman, Cheryl Henson and puppeteer Kevin Clash. The picture-in-picture commentary is phenomenal and, to be fair, the audio commentary which has been offered on previous versions also has its merits. It’s a nice supplementary package only made better with the added Blu-ray commentary.
Oh, and as if to prove the rule, Labyrinth doesn’t suffer from the involvement of George Lucas – who only contributes as a producer.
"Labyrinth" is on sale September 29, 2009 and is rated PG. Children & Family, Drama, Fantasy. Directed by Jim Henson. Written by Dennis Lee & Jim Henson and Terry Jones. Starring David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, Warwick Davis.