When her baby brother is stolen by the fantastical Goblin King, young Sarah 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.
In its follow up to the ambitious puppet wonders of The Dark Crystal, the Henson workshop rather lost their nerve and put regular human beings back in the middle of this maze of crazy-brilliant puppetry. Mind you, David Bowie cuts a spooky enough figure in that fright wig to fit right in with this extraordinary menagerie of Goth Muppets. And Jennifer Connelly, still in the flush of youth, makes for an appealingly together kind of heroine. And yet, this is a lesser adventure than Crystal, never quite as fully transporting for all its fine execution.
Broadly speaking, it’s Alice In Wonderland made less trippy by its quest format, but still a picaresque through the heady world of Henson’s making. The Labyrinth itself, referencing Escher’s dizzying optical illusions, is a very literal nightmare world. The film is playing a distinctly Freudian game — after all, Sarah is plunging in puberty — that all of it might be going on in her dreams. A similar idea to that expounded in L. Frank Baum’s world of Oz, that her companions on this journey are merely living versions of her most reassuring bedroom toys. When she departs the land, she is finally departing childhood.
Quite a clever notion to thread into a kid’s adventure, and you have to admire Henson’s reach, but he gets caught a little aimless, many of the encounters come to nothing, while the addition of Terry Jones to spruce up the scriptwriting team adds a strain of Pythonesque whimsy that feels awkwardly superimposed. Yet, Henson’s handsome gifts at giving his exotic puppets the spark of life and personality is an unsung form of genius, that remains sorely missed.
Fabulous fantasy from the godfather of modern puppetry Jim Henson.