Labyrinth - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Labyrinth Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ December 28, 2010
A delightful fantasy adventure clearly inspired by The Wizard of Oz (the book appears in at least two scenes) and fairy tales (even a poisoned fruit is there), and its dated visual effects and cheesy musical numbers have a charm only found in these movies of the '80s.
Super Reviewer
July 31, 2013
Terribly disappointing. I'm not a fan of muppets anyway, and the campy faux musical numbers go nowhere. Sarah is such a brat at the beginning; her dad and stepmother aren't THAT cruel or negligent. She seems to go after the stolen Toby only out of self-preservation, not out of any fraternal love or filial piety. Her reason for loving her brother isn't shown or found, and there's no reconciliation with her parents in the end. The intended theme of the movie seems to be about growing up or learning responsibility, but there are no specific challenges that test those waters. There are no compelling plot points, no rising action or climax - just a bunch of traveling with some surface friendships, some chases, and not enough riddles.

The provenance of the key to defeating the Goblin King ("You have no power over me") is also slightly vague. Sarah seems to recite from a play in the first scene, but it's unclear that the labyrinthine dreamscape she unlocks is from that same play/book (which I learned from the DVD case synopsis was her favorite book), and the secret weapon was in the book the entire time; she need only to remember it.

The vaguely bondage/domination desires of the Goblin King are creepy but almost not creepy enough. There's no real sense of romance, but there's no real sense of danger for this age-inappropriate flirtation either, so what's the point?
Super Reviewer
January 3, 2008
Very hammy, even for an 80's movie. Maybe a little too much so. Maybe I would feel differently if I had seen this as a child, but somehow missed this one.
Even David Bowie is not very good here, and I'm a fan. It's like he couldn't take it seriously either.
Jennifer Connelly looks pretty, but she's not good either. Extremely unconvincing.
Didn't really like the puppets. I guess maybe kids would enjoy this. I can't picture an adult, although the ratings suggest otherwise.
Super Reviewer
June 13, 2006
This typical 80s muppet adventure contains all the highlights and lows of the era: a pop soundtrack by David Bowie (who is also a fine villain), a simple but enthralling story, lovable characters that sometimes burst into songs, but also some cheesy lines, dated special effects and a simplistic plot. Of course, none of those things mattered if you saw this film at the right age when it came out. Most of the dolls still look pretty fine and especially unique today and there are so amazing visual effects in the film. Jennifer Connelly started her great career with this and the Henson studios once again proved that they are the masters of puppets. It's easy to find flaw in this film today, but for its time it was pretty outstanding and still works for an entertaining rainy afternoon now.
Super Reviewer
½ December 12, 2007
A spoiled teenage girl (Jennifer Connelly) must find her way through a magical labyrinth (designed by M.C. Escher and inhabited by Muppets) to save her baby brother from the Goblin King (David Bowie). Excellent coming-of-age fantasy that's a sweet and spectacular adventure for youngsters; the undercurrent of sexual tension between Connelly and Bowie is unnerving but adds a certain creepy fascination for adults.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
January 23, 2012
Having made his name in the 1970s through Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, the 1980s saw Jim Henson move into darker territory with a recurring interest in fairy tales. After steering The Great Muppet Caper to box-office success, he directed The Dark Crystal, a Tolkien-esque fantasy featuring ground-breaking animatronics. In the late-1980s he created The Storyteller TV series starring John Hurt, which retold Greek myths and European folk tales through a mixture of puppetry and live action.

Sandwiched between these two accomplishments is Labyrinth, Henson's last theatrical film before his tragic and untimely death in 1990. Its commercial failure drove Henson to despair, but it has rightfully attained cult status, spawning a series of manga spin-offs, a spiritual sequel called MirrorMask, reams of fan fiction, and even an annual two-day masked ball held in Hollywood. Looking at the film in isolation of its following, it has more than its share of problems, but like much of Henson's work the flaws end up making it all the more endearing.

Labyrinth does have a fair amount of creative pedigree. Aside from Henson's direct involvement, it boasts a screenplay by ex-Python and medievalist Terry Jones, who shares Henson's fascination with fairy tales. There is also a production credit for George Lucas, who collaboration with Henson in the creation of Yoda on The Empire Strikes Back. This is an example of Lucas doing what he does best - using his financial clout and army of toys to give those with real creative talent what they need. Lucas would subsequently work in a similar capacity on Ron Howard's Willow two years later.

Labyrinth is clearly the product of people who understand fairy tales - and in particular, understand them to be more than silly stories told to children. The most superficial indication of this is an early shot of Sarah's bookshelf, which features everything from Alice in Wonderland to The Wizard of Oz. But there is also clear fairy tale imagery in the film's cast of characters. Sarah, played by Jennifer Connelly, is the classic dark-haired heroine with a 'wicked' stepmother; she stands in for Snow White, with Jareth's peach taking the place of the poisoned apple.

Alongside the frequent references to Snow White, there are tenuous connections to Sleeping Beauty: rather than the prince riding to rescue the princess, the gender roles are reversed and Jareth stands in for Maleficent. There are also nods to Alice in Wonderland in the maze sequence (which features prominently in the Disney version), and to The Wizard of Oz in the make-up of the companions: Sarah, like Dorothy, is joined by three companions and a dog.

It is therefore ironic that a film of such literary richness should be so all at sea narratively. The premise of Labyrinth is simple: a spoilt child has 13 hours to get her brother back, before he turns into a goblin. It is difficult to sustain such a premise over 90 minutes, and there are loads of random scenes which make no sense or have no right to be there. Some of these are quite witty in their own right - for instance, the worm who persistently offers Sarah cups of tea and asks her to meet his family. But other are just bizarrely surreal (the soldiers beating Ludo like a piņata) or somewhat misjudged (the talking knockers - more on them later).

The 'Chilly Down' sequence is Labyrinth is one of the best examples of a 'Big-Lipped Alligator moment'. This term, derived by Nostalgia Chick Lindsay Ellis, refers to a random musical sequence which comes out of nowhere, has little or no bearing on the plot, is ridiculously over-the-top, and after it happens is never spoken of again. This scene fits each of these criteria, and is also the most dated aspect of the film: the obvious blue-screen is a possible indication that, even in their infancy, digital effects date quicker than organic ones.

The special effects in Labyrinth are a complete mixed bag. The work of Industrial Light and Magic was perhaps impressive for the day but feels all too obvious after 26 years. The use of matte paintings, a common feature in fantasy filmmaking, also hasn't stood the test of time; the first shot of the labyrinth will prompt widespread cries of "it's only a model". But the puppets remain endearing proof of Henson's brilliance. His creatures come in all shapes and sizes, but all of them have a personality and a physicality which pulls us into their world.

That said, some of the characters are rather annoying. It's unfair to pick on child actors, who are still learning their craft, but Sarah is not an entirely likeable protagonist; not only is she spoilt and childish, but her intelligence seems to vary according to the nearest plot point. More problematic is Sir Didymus, a Don Quixote-style knight, who has a dog called Ambrosius for a steed, and who bring the plot to a grinding halt. To draw on Monty Python a second time, his introduction is somewhere between the Black Knight and the Bridge of Death, but without any of the laughs (or the violence).

In addition to all the non-sequiturs and plot diversions, Labyrinth has several moments which are either misjudged or downright disturbing. The script is rife with innuendo ("search me, we're just the knockers") or phallic imagery (obelisks and Jareth's, erm, balls). David Bowie manages to avoid looking ridiculous, but his tight trousers leave nothing to the imagination. Most disturbing is a scene where Sarah falls down a shaft full of wandering hands. It's an inventive and clever use of puppetry, but treads far too close for comfort to Repulsion.

One scene which is effective, however, is the dream sequence. After Sarah eats the peach, she descends into a deep sleep and imagines herself dancing with Jareth at a masked ball. The awkward dancing and shifting camerawork conveys their mixed feelings towards each other, both platonic and romantic. It is also the scene which highlights something rare - an 1980s electronic soundtrack that hasn't dated badly. Bowie's contributions gel nicely with Trevor Jones' instrumentals, and 'As The World Falls Down' is one of the film's highlights.

This scene also introduces the core theme of Labyrinth. The film is about learning to putting childish things to one side, not so much to leave them behind but to realise that everything has its place. This theme is approached gently and playfully, but it is there throughout the stronger second half. The most evocative example comes in the junkyard scene, where Sarah is confronted by an old woman carrying a burden of useless junk. The woman represents what Sarah will become if she cannot assert her adult self and move on from childhood.

Sarah manages to defeat Jareth and retrieve her brother by realising that he has no power over her. As persuasive and seductive as he is, he is still a fantasy of hers: she can control his destiny, not the other way around. The final scene, where all the characters descend upon her room, is a reminder that our memories and fantasies of childhood never really leave us. We draw on them when needed, but we needn't fear them (hence Jareth's absence).

The film picks up quite significantly in its last half hour, when our protagonists finally enter the goblin city. The fight that ensues is pretty aimless, but includes a good self-deprecating gag on Lucas' part: the multitude of boulders summoned by Ludo takes a certain scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark to its silliest possible conclusion. The scenes with Jareth inside the castle are very impressive, with another good song ('Within You') and an elaborate set which replicates the work of MC Escher.

Discounting the parents, Labyrinth only has two human performances of note. Connelly's delivery is off the mark at times, but she is generally okay and eventually manages to become likeable. Bowie is clearly enjoying himself: only someone of his charisma and sex appeal could wear that outfit with any dignity, and his odd delivery is suited to the character. Elsewhere there is good work all round from the puppeteers, particularly Jim Henson's son Brian who provides the voice of Hoggle.

Labyrinth remains a decent film and a definite guilty pleasure. It's riddled with flaws and inconsistencies which lessen its dramatic impact, but the charm of Henson's craft lift the experience of watching it. In the moments when it comes together, it is an original and intriguing exploration of a theme or eventuality often avoided in children's films. If nothing else, it cements Henson's position as high king of puppetry and emperor of the lovably weird.
Super Reviewer
June 24, 2007
An imaginative, initially charming David Lynch meets Tim Burton meets Disney mesh of a story concerning a young girl (Jennifer Connelly) who must find her baby brother in a dark, mysterious dream-like world ruled by an intimidating figure (David Bowie) within a certain time-frame, or she will never see him again. Jim Henson definitely gets an "A" for set-pieces, makeup, and a variety of characters being worked in to his story. Where he falters is giving the story some suspense and maintaining its overall likability. Sometimes this film gets a little too dark, and occasionally annoying with some of the characters chewing up their scenes while stealing it away from the more interesting characters in the story. Connelly and Bowie are both terrific, and as said, it is a very good looking movie. However, it is not for a second surprising or memorable, with Henson deciding to play his cards safe and not electing for this to be anymore than a nice but ultimately forgettable and disposable kids film. Not a bad movie by any means, in fact it is pretty good, it just is not a solid recommendation type of movie.
Super Reviewer
August 8, 2007
Another classic from my childhood, Bowie is cool here (although when I was a kid I thought he was a female hahaha) the Labyrinth is really twisted and cool looking, great imagination and creature design all round with some awesome classic effects with the good old ways of matte painting and puppetry, the 'Magic Dance' is a great song as well.

Everything is spot on in this visual feast right down to the smallest detail, its incredible to see the love and sweat put into this film and without using any cgi! all good old fashioned craftsmanship. An absolute joy to watch and THE perfect family film for all ages, everyone can enjoy and appreciate the skill and work involved creating this magical world.

Mr Henson, you've done it again, probably your best work.
Super Reviewer
February 6, 2011
Let me start this review by saying that on paper, this is NOT a good film. If I were to break down what I liked about this film, it would seem like everything I said would be a flaw. But that's the point with Labyrinth. It's flawed beyond human (and goblin) comprehension, but it's so much fun, so offbeat, and downright bizarre, it succeeds to do what many fantasy epics fail to do: Create a world. I'm not saying that the world of Labyrinth is believable. What I'm saying is that the world is so consistently weird that when a little girl falls into a pit lined with hundreds of hands that grab her and speak with her, you don't even question it. The puppetry from Jim Henson's creature crew looks really cool (with the exception of the Fierys that look AWFUL), but the reason above all reasons that this film is enjoyable is simple:
David Bowie is in it.
David is an absolute joy to watch as Jareth the Goblin King, over the top but extremely enjoyable. His soundtrack varies in quality, but if you don't like "Dance Magic Dance", THEN YOU DON'T HAVE A SOUL. In total, I enjoyed this film. It's fun and if you have any interest in puppetry, this and "The Dark Crystal" are films you should watch.
Super Reviewer
July 5, 2009
You have no power over me.

Decent movie. I would have liked to have seen this movie when I was kid when I could have enjoy it more, all that fantasy and kids monsters would have been great. Right now what I can say is that it wasn't a bad movie, it is a cult movie which will be remember always. At my age for me at times was a little boring and tedious to watch but still it was nice and a joy to watch.

Young Sarah is left home alone by her parents and she has to babysit her little brother Toby. But the baby keeps crying and Sarah, while telling him a story to make him sleep, inadvertently conjures from a fantasy world the Goblin King who steals the child and brings him to his castle in the middle of a labyrinth. Sarah has to rescue him before midnight, or the baby will became a goblin...
Super Reviewer
½ April 4, 2009
"A' mazing tale of never-ending fantasy."

15-year-old Sarah accidentally wishes her baby half-brother, Toby, away to the Goblin King Jareth who will keep Toby if Sarah does not complete his Labyrinth in 13 hours.

Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is at her wit's end when she is babysitting her half brother Toby who won't stop crying and wishes the goblins from her favorite book, The Labyrinth, would come and take him away. When this actually happens, she must face the goblin king Jareth (David Bowie) and find her way through his labyrinth to rescue Toby before he becomes a goblin himself in thirteen hours. Along the way, she meets a variety of fascinating creatures and faces all sorts of obstacles, for Jareth will not give up the child easily in this strange world where "anything is possible and nothing is what it seems".

One of its biggest strengths is the wonderful puppetry by the Henson Company. Comprising a large part of the cast, these are really beautifully designed and skillfully used. Combined with some really excellent surreal set design, there is a great atmosphere of fantasy and unreality that is necessary for the story. Things like "the Helping Hands" and the staircase scene late in the movie are great.

But the sets and the puppets are only part of the charm of Labyrinth. I found that the dialog in the movie, while at times a little corny, is generally witty and humorous. And the casting of Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie in their respective roles worked really well. Jennifer Connelly gave a nice performance and Bowie was incredible as the Goblin King. Shari Weiser was a good choice for the role of Hoggle too. Lots of humor and action help keep this movie rolling at a good pace so that it never gets boring. And then there is the soundtrack - wonderful music from David Bowie.

All in all, this is a charming, funny and entertaining movie that is great for the whole family and stands up to repeated viewings.
Super Reviewer
August 5, 2011
Imaginative fantasies have become commonplace of recent times with the release of "The Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter" films etc. This has been made possible with the technology we have now, helping to bring fantastical imagery to a new level. However, this 1986 film preceeded those using old-fashioned puppetry from "The Muppets" creator Jim Henson and based on an original story by Terry Jones from "Monty Python" fame.
When her baby brother is stolen by the Goblin King (David Bowie), young Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) must mount a rescue operation. A plan made doubly tricky by the fact he has hidden his castle in the middle of a treacherous labyrinth populated with the weird and the wonderful.
This being a childhood favourite of mine, it was nice to visit it again recently. It also serves as a reminder as to how good Jim Henson and his puppets were. With most movies now relying on computer generated special effects, it's refreshing to know that a more inventive approach was once used. However, some scenes do show up the limitations (and strings) and some stunted dialogue and amature acting don't help matters. Despite this though, it's the sheer imagination, fantastical otherworld and it's eclectic inhabitants that capture your attention in a way that children's films don't quite do anymore. When I was young, I wholly entered into Henson's world and upon a recent rewatch, was reminded how easy that was to do. It's still effective now and with a shared enthusiasm from my CGI exposed young daughter, it's testiment that a young audience today can still be captivated by it. Not so long ago, special effects had an integrity about them and Jim Henson and his puppet company were one of the best in the business. Henson was still honing his skills before his untimely death a few years after this. Ironically he died in the same week he was going to sell him company to one of the modern computer generated giants of today. A little known company called... 'Disney'.
A fantastical, family friendly classic that I much loved as a youngster and have the pleasure to relive with my own children. It has aged fairly well. Although, I often wonder if Bowie actually had that excessively ridiculous codpiece written into his contract. Dear oh dear, David.
Super Reviewer
½ July 22, 2007
A cute little film which takes you on a fantastical journey inside David Bowies mind. Awesome film with an awesome soundtrack.
Super Reviewer
September 6, 2010
I watched this movie a million times when I was a kid, I loved it so much, and actually I still watch it from time to time because I still love it. It's an awesome fantasy adventure from Henson, with both real people and puppets. I highly recommend it.
Super Reviewer
½ July 29, 2010
There are issues with Connelly's overdone drama and hightened screams every other second; but this film wasn't meant to be the magnum opus of Henson. The Muppets used were at least original, and David Bowie, with all his usual flair and glamour, came across as a fear mongering ruler. The songs were engaging; reminiscent of Ziggy Stardust. It was child friendly and above all else entertaining.
Super Reviewer
½ June 13, 2010
Maybe it's just my hatred for Muppets and Jim Henson, but this is the ultimate corny music sing-a-long of the 80s. It has a truly terrible string of characters and plot devices, even to a child it should be obvious that there is something very dumb about it. It's a fantasy movie that tries way too hard to be a "Dark Fantasy" and fails miserably. I think Jim Henson is terribly overrated and wasn't as much of an innovator as he gets credit for. The only, only possible reason that people should see this is for David Bowie as Jareth the child snatcher. He is the best part of this movie without even trying, but then again seeing him singing with fake puppets is just sad.
Super Reviewer
August 2, 2009
a brilliantly offbeat comedy/adventure film with david bowie playing the goblin king to perfection
Super Reviewer
½ January 23, 2010
Holy David Bowie's pants! I think that's all I can say....
Super Reviewer
September 4, 2007
Of course my all time favourite movie that is just spell binding.
This movie also has a really awesome sound track that makes you happy.
I ove this movie its brilliant its magical and has characters you fall in love with and is also a bit of a musical with brilliantly fantastic performances from Bowie and Connerly.
This movie is about a girl who has a baby brother who tells a story of a dark creature, she then reads toby the story but she didnt anticipate bowie actually kidnapping the child so she must go throught maze of the labyrinth to find her borther, but along the way she encounters difficulties and is against the clock but with a helping hand from friends she made along the way can she sav eher baby brother toby and conquer the maze??!!
Totally worth a watch brilliant!
Super Reviewer
March 14, 2007
Jim Henson's Labyrinth is one classic fantasy adventure.What helps this film a lot is the plot. It is fairly simple, but at the same time it works wonderfully for this genre. The story wastes little time as there is just enough buildup to setup the labyrinth portion. The first panning shot of Sarah's room tells it all. Soon thereafter, the following words trigger the fun; "I wish the goblins would come and take you away, right now." The run time is around 1 hour and 40 minutes and while this feels appropriate, the labyrinth calls out for more fun and airtime.It is nice to see live action puppets and creature costumes. It brings more realism to the film. Of course there are also a few effects, which are good enough for its time, despite their cheap look.A lot of people will note David Bowie as the star of this picture. Yes, he does have a huge part and he does get a chance to sing, but the beautiful Jennifer Connelly is the one that carries this movie. When it comes to the creatures, the voice work is nicely done.While some of the creatures may be a bit frightening for a really young audience, Labyrinth is a fantasy adventure that caters to a wide age range.
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