Saturday, February 25, 2017

JRO's #100: Labyrinth (Jim Henson)

I guess that spot 100 is reserved for a childhood favorite that probably doesn't hold up under careful scrutiny. If I hadn't seen this when I was 8 or so, I don't know that it would matter to me.

Spoilers: that may describe many of my 90s picks.


Like so many U.S. 80s kids, my third parent was the television. As an adult, I've concluded that this was largely a negative influence in my life. But it's hard not to love someone (some thing) that raised you even if they hurt you often.

One mostly positive influence that came through the television, one that I cannot regret, was the worldview of Jim Henson. Muppets. Fraggles. Children. Monsters. Magic.

Henson's world was alive with magic, wonder, and most of all bright humor. In Henson's world, it is a joy to be alive. We are surrounded by a creation that breathes and talks and moves alongside us. The world is begging to be explored and enjoyed.

Labyrinth is Henson's greatest film to not feature Kermit the Frog (yes, we'll definitely be seeing Kermit later in the list). The Dark Crystal preceded it. I do like The Dark Crystal, but it's tone is oppressively heavy. Labyrinth lets the light in.

Bowie has never been better in any other film he was in. His unmistakable maleness bulging out of a fey androgyny brings a sexual menace that is quite serious, grounding the film.

Jennifer Connolly, so young in this, plays a perfectly conflicted teenage girl, testing the limits of her independence balanced against her responsibility. All of life is a fairy tale and she must find her role.

Despite some muddling in the middle (almost all enjoyable muddling), I find the final resolution still very powerful after all these years. "You have no power over me." It is an important step of maturity to be able to see through even the most deceptively beautiful enchantments and recognize the good and the true for oneself.

So, yeah, even quickly writing these brief thoughts this morning has convinced me that Labyrinth is a masterpiece and should be higher up the list. Maybe it should be. But each time I watch it as an adult, I find stretches of it simplistic and boring. It's uneven in its execution, which maybe makes it even more of a wonder. No matter what, it deserves a place on My List.

Maybe after going through all my 100 picks, I'll settle on a better order. Good thing we're re-doing these lists next year! :-)


  1. There's a small chance that I watched Labyrinth when I was a kid, but I really don't think so. It seems like that would be something I would remember. So I believe that the first I saw it was around the time that I watched The Sting for the first time. It was another Netflix DVD rental for me.

    Had I grown up with it, it probably would've made my list as well. Bowie rules, but I'm sad to say that none of his movies are on my list. I feel like that needs to changed, so I'd like to rewatch this again soon. It's been way too long and I don't remember a lot of it.

  2. Also did not see this as a kid (not that I remember at least). I think I watched it for the first time as an teen when I started getting into Bowie. Wasn't disappointed one bit.