David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, Toby Froud
Colour 101 mins
A worthy film from Jim Henson of Muppets fame which mixes live actors with puppetry. Made as digital effects were beginning to make an impact (the owl is partly digitally animated) the film is a showcase of what can be done by skilled and imaginative puppeteers.
The plot has young Sarah who annoyed at being left to look after baby Toby wishes the goblins would take him away. And to her dismay they do - to redeem the situation she must venture through the Labyrinth to the goblin city and reclaim Toby. Monty Python's Terry Jones contributed to the script and it is chockful of off the wall touches and British humour. The goblin king Jareth is played by David Bowie whose ambiguousness tending to androgyny is very apt. The goblin king could have been an echo of Sarah's inner psyche, Bowie also performs some songs with manic Muppet accompaniment.
The film is full of little brilliances, from a well of helping hands to Jareth juggling with crystal spheres. Some of the effects don't quite work, or would have been done better digitally - the dance of the fiery creatures who toss heads around is iffy, and the Escher staircases aren't quite there. But taken as a souped up Muppet show this is splendid stuff.
The elements of the film do fight against each other. The theme is potentially quite adult but there's rather puerile touches too. The film is potentially profound but has very trivial moments too. The sheer range of situations confuse rather than emphasize a message. But this is a masterwork of puppetry.