Viking Night: Labyrinth
By Bruce Hall
June 8, 2011
Ever notice how a lot of the things you loved so much as a kid don’t seem so great anymore? I used to love stopping by the 7-11 on the way home from school. There I’d buy a Slurpee, a bunch of Pixie Sticks and mix them together into the most unholy sweet concoction you’ve ever tasted. If it’s possible to spontaneously contract diabetes from one sitting, I came dangerously close on several occasions. Now you couldn’t pay me to drink something like that, not that it would stay down for very long anyway. At one point during my formative years, Knight Rider was my favorite television show...ever. Now, it’s just a bad joke about a swishy talking car driven by a creepy lounge lizard in tight leather pants. I used to let this disappoint me, but I’ve come to realize this is a normal part of growing up. Your tastes change, and that’s usually a good thing.
This is because when it comes to taste, kids usually have none. This can sometimes lead to generational awkwardness, since your brain just doesn’t (or shouldn't) operate the same way it did back then. So for your own good, I’d suggest you leave forever undisturbed the parts of your mind that fondly remember things like Pixie Stick Slurpees and David Hasselhoff’s man-fro. If you try to go back, you’re going to be disappointed. It’s not quite what you remember. It’s not even close. And in the case of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, I can’t for the life of me imagine what I ever enjoyed about it in the first place. This is a film with a substantial cult following, which is the reason I’m writing about it. But if you’re a fan who flatly refuses to accept the truth about how awful this movie is, you should stop reading now. Trust me, you won’t like where I am about to take this. Besides, people who like Muppets and people who don’t like Muppets should NEVER discuss Muppets.
But first, I owe you a bit of background: The '80s brought on a glut of fantasy themed films, such as Dragonslayer, Willow, and Krull. Most of them were terrible, some of them had potential, but only one of them had David Bowie busting out the rock aria in a room full of marionettes. Willow had Val Kilmer, and “Krull” is quite possibly the coolest movie title in history. But believe me, when David Bowie said “Let’s Dance,” he was talking about Muppets. Fittingly, Labyrinth was the brainchild of legendary puppeteer Jim Henson and legendary Monty Python alum Terry Jones. So, you’d think this would be a sweet, endearing story with a sympathetic hero, a menacing villain and a reassuring message at the end. Right? Wrong. This movie is about a vile, baby-shaking teenager and an androgynous child molester who lives in a spooky castle, surrounded by shadow dancing hand puppets. It’s a nightmarish catastrophe from beginning to end, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to have trouble sleeping for a while because Labyrinth disturbs me on just...so many levels.