Teenage Sarah embarks on a life-altering quest when she attempts to rescue her little brother, Toby, from the clutches of the treacherous Jareth the Goblin King, who lives in a castle surrounded by a giant labyrinth. With just 13 hours to plot a course through the dangerous maze, Sarah must grow up fast, learn her responsibilities, and muster supreme courage.
Plot Rating: 5/5
Two words would have made me watch this movie sooner, two words that no one ever use in conjunction with this movie: Jim. Henson. This isn’t just some weird acid-trip movie (what I thought it was), it is a weird acid-trip movie with MUPPETS.
Sarah hates her stepmother and is forced every weekend to babysit her baby half-brother Toby. Her main passion in life is reciting old plays or stories from memory, and the one she is working on at the start of the movie is a small book called “Labyrinth”. Angry at the crying child, Sarah recites a passage from “Labyrinth”, an invocation to the Goblin King to take away a child. She awakens the Goblins and next thing she knows her brother is gone.
Sara immediately regrets what she’s done and she confronts the Goblin King (who also appears), demanding he give back the child. He instead makes a deal with her: within 13 hours if she can navagate a massive labyrinth to reach his palace in the center then she can have Toby back. Sara meets many new people and makes new friends along the way through the dangerous labyrinth.
Acting Score: 5/5
Jennifer Connelly (Sarah) seems a bit overdone early on, but thinking back I attribute that to the character, who is naieve and young in the beginning, but finds a strong inner strength at the end. She portrays a wide range of emotions perfectly and manages to hold the viewers attention the whole way.
David Bowie plays the Goblin King in all his 80s glory. He is meant to be a bit extravagant and eccentric, and does a great job. He plays the Goblin King as distasteful, but not outright unlikeable. You always feel there is a chance he’s not so horrible after all. My only big complaint is with the costume department for him: sounds awkward, but trust me, you notice it once and you notice it always: the cup they gave him is awkward and exaggerated. Another thing I would have liked to see: there are some fly-away strands in his bright blonde mullet, and if those upper strands had been died moss-green he would have fit in better with the Goblins around him. Not an issue, I just think it would have been cool.
Age Rating: 10+
There isn’t anything serious here that would scare kids. Really the only worry I’d have as a parent is that the goblin muppets can sometimes look kind of scary. As a kid who had nightmares after watching the Skeksis in “The Dark Crystal”. The worst is this little guy in the first 10 min (the goblin who wakes up when she begins reciting the call for the King). Lower the age recommendation to 8+ if your kids aren’t upset by that kind of thing.
Originally the baby Toby was supposed to be named Freddie, it was changed because the boy, Toby Froud, would only react to his own name.
In the beginning of the movie pay close attention to Sarah’s bedroom decorations: hidden in them are many of the goblin friends who help Sarah, and there is even a picture in her dresser of Sarah’s famous actress mom with David Bowie.
To help the puppetteer inside to see, a small camera was hidden in Ludo’s right horn.
Jareth’s crystal ball stunts are performed by a real-life professional juggler. He crouched behind Bowie in many scenes and Bowie acted as though they were his arms. The juggler could not see around Bowie and did all his stunts blind.
In the song “Magic Dance” when you hear Toby gurgling to the music you are actually hearing David Bowie.
The CGI owl in the beginning was the first-ever CGI animal to be attempted in a film.
When Jareth whispers in Toby’s ear and the baby appears hypnotized David Bowie was actually holding a puppet on his hand out of shot and wiggling it while he talked, distracting the child who had previously been screaming and crying.
This was the last feature film directed by Jim Henson.