Let’s step into the Wayback machine and see what The New York Times‘ Nina Darnton had to say when Labyrinth premiered on June 27, 1986:
”LABYRINTH,” which opens today at the UA Gemini Twin and other theaters, is the product of an impressive collaboration between its executive producer, George Lucas, who created Chewbacca, Darth Vader and R2D2, and its director, Jim Henson, who created Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear and the irrepressible Miss Piggy. The result, a fabulous film about a young girl’s journey into womanhood that uses futuristic technology to illuminate a mythic-style tale, is in many ways a remarkable achievement…
The puppets in ”Labyrinth,” inventively created from the drawings of the conceptual designer Brian Froud, are a long way from Jim Henson’s original Muppets, which used the traditional puppet box. Now they are complicated, highly technical creatures, each requiring about five people to operate, with many of the movements done by remote control. But one of Mr. Henson’s special gifts is producing puppets that are wonderfully human, eccentric and individualistic. As a result his new creations are not cold, automated electronic marvels, but fantastic humanoid creatures inhabiting a newly created world who mirror our own foibles, and so can move us and make us laugh.
The story of the film is a variation on a classic theme from children’s literature. Fifteen-year-old Sarah, in that twilight time when a girl begins to change into a woman, is staying home to care for her baby brother, whom she resents. A girl with an active imagination – her bookshelves are filled with the works of Lewis Carroll, Maurice Sendak and the brothers Grimm – she wishes her brother weren’t her responsibility. ”I wish the goblins would take you away right now,” she says aloud. And they do. The rest of the film is her journey to get him back – through the labyrinth of mazes, puzzles, magic and topsy-turvy twists of logic that must lead her to the center, where the goblin king is holding her brother. David Bowie is perfectly cast as the teasing, tempting seducer whom Sarah must both want and reject in order to learn the labyrinth’s lessons, and his songs add a driving, sensual appeal….
Most of the people who appear in the film work in teams of ”performers” who operate the puppets – a lessening in the need for actors that might interest the Screen Actors Guild. Some of these puppets create memorable characters, such as Hoggle, the ugly gnome who is a coward but conquers his worse nature for love of his friend Sarah. Others are Ludo, a huge, hairy oaf who becomes Sarah’s loyal friend, and Sir Didymus, a tiny hand puppet with the face of a dignified fox terrier who has a touch of Don Quixote in him. He’s a gallant little knight who says lines like ”Don’t worry, we’ve got them surrounded” when the goblins are closing in on him. The script, by Terry Jones, co-creator of ”Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” is witty and slightly zany – a good combination to entertain both children and adults.
Labyrinth screens Friday and Saturday, December 26 and 27 at 7:00 and 9:00, and Sunday, December 28 at 5:00 and 7:00 at the Trylon. These shows will be well-attended and are likely to sell out, so we encourage you to purchase your tickets in advance! You can purchase them here.