Children's / Reviews

Labyrinth (1986) Blu-Ray review

When Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) makes an ill-advised wish to the Goblin King (David Bowie) to take her infant brother, he obliges the wish.  It is then up to Sarah to venture into his Labyrinth to try to rescue her brother.

The last film directed by Jim Henson, Labyrinth is something of a mixed bag.  I have never liked the film, and re-watching it with my son, I find that the film is actually missing the magic that The Dark Crystal, and to a lesser extent The Neverending Story, have.

When a fantasy obsessed teenager gets stuck staying home to watch her infant brother while her parents go out, her anger and frustration get the best of her and she wishes to the Goblin King to take her brother.  He takes the baby boy to his castle beyond the labyrinth and gives Sarah to the stroke of 13 on the clock to make her way through the labyrinth to rescue the boy.  Along the way she meets Hoggle, a grumpy dwarf, Ludo, a giant gentle hearted creature, and Sir Didymous, a dog knight who rides a dog for his mount.  Together, the four of them work to solve the labyrinth.

I think that a lot of my problem with this movie has to do with David Bowie and his songs.  They are unabashedly ’80’s, pop synth music that are not very good.  Like much of Bowie’s ’80’s music, they are not well written and unfortunately are a centerpiece of the film.

The film also suffers from too much going on.  It drops Sarah into the labyrinth, and the labyrinth changes.  One minute she’s walking through a brick walkway, then she is in a foliage labyrinth, then in a junkyard, then underground, then navigating The Bog of Eternal Stench.  There are just too many set pieces here.  Instead of focusing on Sarah’s journey, they seem to have focused more on creating strange places for her to visit.  Never once do you feel the threat that she will not solve the labyrinth and rescue her brother.

While the film is a kids film, it is also very harsh for children.  The designs of the goblins and myriad creatures of the labyrinth are frightening and creepy.  I had no recollection of how chilling some of these designs are.   It had been years since I had watched this, and bought it for my son to complete his ’80’s fantasy triumvirate (Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and The Neverending Story).  Honestly, he didn’t seem as into this as I expected him to be, but he also wasn’t frightened by what was going on on screen.

The video quality on this disc is probably as good as this film will ever look.  The colors are bright, but there is still a film grain that they probably couldn’t get rid of.  While this isn’t the best looking blu-ray out there, it certainly is better than the VHS copy that I watched this on last. (I haven’t owned a VCR since DVD was released.)

The sound was well done, though.  There was a nice breakup in the 5.1 channels, and the dialogue was crisp and clear.  It did have the problem where the action was very loud, but the rest of the movie wasn’t.  This makes this disc not very apartment friendly.

There are quite a few special features on this disc.  I haven’t had a chance to dig into them, but there is a picture in picture track, commentaries, making of documentary and more.

I realize that this film has become a cult classic in some circles, but much like The Boondock Saints, I do not see the fascination.  It is a nice light-hearted fantasy film, but there are some missteps that keep the film from being as good as it could be.  Of the ’80’s fantasy triumvirate I stated above, I feel this is the weakest of the bunch.

Movie ** out of ****

Blu-Ray **1/2 out of ****


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