Seeing how Labyrinth is my all-time favorite movie that does not have Star or Wars in the title, I was crushed to hear of David Bowie’s passing Sunday. He was an incredible musician and song-writer, a fashion icon, a brilliant man, a really fun guy, Iman's husband ("Listen to Iman!"), but also a talented actor. Now, he’s been really, really great in a lot of movies – in particular, if you missed his turn as Tesla in the Prestige – be sure to watch it. Come on - that entrance!
However, Since I love Labyrinth so much, I decided to write a bit about this one in tribute to the legendary Mr. Bowie.
Labyrinth is essentially a non-Muppet Muppet Movie. It’s produced by George Lucas, and written and directed by Jim Henson, starring all his regular performers, just none of the regular Muppets you are familiar with. But is really is a Bowie movie, from the opening credit sequence, the movie is all Bowie in the best way...
The story centers around Sarah – a young woman with a bit of an attitude about her father’s new wife and their new son. Although, to be fair- it’s never really clear if that is her mother, or actually her step-mother. Let’s go with step-mother for now.
Sarah is a pretty typical teenager, full of herself, her room filled with toys and trinkets. She’s really into fantasy items, and one day is practicing lines from a story she loves in the park, when she realizes she’s late to babysit. She runs home with her dog in the rain to the first of many astounding David Bowie songs in the movie.
Upon arriving at home, her parents chastise her a bit for being late, then head out for the evening. She realizes one of her stuffed animals is missing, and that her baby brother took it into his room. As she’s yelling at him (yes, she’s a bit of a dick in the beginning of the movie) he starts crying, so she begins to tell him a story about goblins…as she’s telling the story – we see Goblins react to it. They are waiting for her to say the right words for them to come and take the baby away (if you're near my age, and you had younger siblings...I know you tried that at least once when you were little).
Well, she builds up to a huge statement, which turns out to be wrong. She thinks nothing of it, but as she’s walking out of the room, she does accidentally say the right words, and her brother’s cries suddenly stop. As she heads back into the room, he’s gone, and there are goblins hiding in the corners and a barn owl at the window. The owl finally breaks in, and transforms into Jareth, the Goblin King – or, David Bowie in the most amazing costuming ever (and yes, those pants).
He tells her he’s done what she asked, and taken the baby. She asks for him back, and since the Goblin King is so kind, considerate, and giving – he allows her 13 hours to solve his Labyrinth.
If she can get to the castle at the center of the Labyrinth in 13 hours, she can have her brother – if not, the king keeps him and he becomes a goblin!
That’s about it for the plot. Sarah has to negotiate the Labyrinth while meeting some really interesting characters.
She has to negotiate the riddling door-knockers, helping hands, an obliet, the bog of eternal stench, the ‘cleaners’, phony warnings, Jareth’s glass ball twirling nonsense (incidentally, I was a little crushed to find out that’s not really Bowie twirling the glass balls – they hired a guy for that!), and a rotten peach to make her forget what she was there for in the first place! Not to mention the super amazing fancy rock formations - that look like Bowie!
In the end, she realizes her own power, that she does need help from her friends, and the fact that it’s better to care more about others than yourself.
Personally, I have to give Sarah credit - I'm not sure I would have been able to resist Jareth - especially after the ballroom sequence..that gown! that song! His outfit!
The movie is filled with awesome visuals, awesome Muppets, awesome characters, awesome songs, and awesome costumes. The movie is just straight up awesome. It even has eyeball moss. EYEBALL MOSS!
David Bowie’s performance as Jareth is legendary. He also wrote the score/soundtrack for this, and it was one of the first soundtracks I owned. I’m pretty sure I still have the cassette tape somewhere. Bowie saunters through the movie equally seducing and terrifying Sarah while looking completely comfortable dancing and singing with insane puppets. He’s amazing, and the best reason to love this movie.
Jennifer Connelly – the future Mrs. Paul Bettany – plays Sarah, and rounds out the two humans in the movie. She actually does a great job being really annoying in the beginning. But then, as she works her way through the maze, she shifts to realizing how important her brother is – more so than all her toys and ‘things’.
The rest of the movie is fantastic Muppets, portrayed by all the classic Muppet performers:
Shari Weiser performs the inside of Hoggle, while Brian Henson provided the voice. Hoggle is a … well, I’m not sure what Hoggle is – a little dwarf-type troll thing? He accompanies Sarah through the Labyrinth, even though he at times is secretly working for/with Jareth – sorry, spoiler alert on that!
Ron Mueck perfroms Ludo – the large, red, rock-controlling … okay, I’m not sure what Ludo is either, but hey – rocks are his friends, so it’s good to have him around!
Dave Goelz (Gonzo) performs Sir Didymus, the very brave dog knight who rides a more cowardly dog steed. Trust me, it makes sense when you see it.
Karen Prell does the voice of the worm. I am mentioning that because of how much I love that worm…”Come on in, meet the missus!”
This movie was one of the many outstanding 80s fantasy flicks that hold up today as remarkable fairy tales. That also includes Legend, the Dark Crystal, Ladyhawke, the Princess Bride, Willow, and several others. They are the perfect things to curl up with on a cold January evening – so do yourself a favor, pull out your copy of Labyrinth and sing along with the Goblin King one more time. "You remind me of the babe!"
Thank you, Mr. Bowie – you’ll be missed.
Bonus - my favorite song from the movie...