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Labyrinth (1986)

Labyrinth‘s one of those movies that I’m reasonably certain everybody likes more than I do. I’ve seen chunks of it several times over the years, but today might be the first time I’ve watched the entire movie since it was released. It’s not a bad movie by any means, but it doesn’t spark my imagination very much. I kept paying attention to the technical tricks and the way that sheepdog dashes across the rocks in the Bog of Eternal Stench. That must have been the best trained dog to ever tread the boards at Elstree Studios.

This is a movie for kids and ours just adored it, as his mother predicted. We often try to take him into a new film a little blind, so he doesn’t know what to expect, and so the first appearance of all the goblins waiting for Jennifer Connelly to word her wish correctly surprised the heck out of him. He smiled and laughed all the way through the film, loving the wonderful battle between the goblin army and all the rocks that Ludo summons the best.

David Bowie never appeared on The Muppet Show, but his performance of “Magic Dance” is a pretty good imitation of how such an event might have appeared. Labyrinth was made during what I might charitably call Bowie’s Crap Period, with five new songs strung between the tentpoles of his two weakest LPs not really providing a lot of reason to go check these out. “As the World Falls Down” is the best of the five by miles, and I’m kind of annoyed that I’ll have “Underground” stuck in my head for the next month.

But while musically, it’s a weak set of songs, it’s impossible to dislike Bowie’s performance as the Goblin King, Jareth. He may not be one of the screen’s great villains, but he’s a fun, mischievous character who plays by rules and logic that our heroine doesn’t find fair. I wonder about all the goblins in his kingdom. Were these all children that Jareth has stolen from other worlds?

Apparently Terry Jones rewrote his script sixty-eleven times to please Bowie and Jim Henson, and he later expressed some frustration that the final draft didn’t have a lot of what he enjoyed creating left in it. But a lot of it works, especially Jennifer Connelly’s believably heroic-but-overwhelmed character. I like how her bedroom contains posters of musicals, Escher prints, and the Judge Dredd role-playing game. Speaking of Escher, we got to remind our son of “Castrovalva” before the climactic scene in the “Relativity” staircase room. It must be said that Henson pulled off that illusion rather better than Doctor Who did. There’s also a repeat of the classic riddle about the two guards, one truthful and one a liar, that Who had done in “Pyramids of Mars.”

Incidentally, I’ve actually seen more of Hoggle in real life than in this movie. He lives just about an hour from here. The Hoggle puppet was lost in transit when Henson was doing a lecture tour, and the insurance paid off. Many years later, Hoggle, badly decaying from water damage, was found in a trunk that had been purchased in a big job lot by Unclaimed Baggage in Scottsboro AL. The puppet was restored by an expert in Wisconsin, Gary Sowatzka, in 2006, and he now occupies a place of pride in the giant store’s front lobby.

This kind of reminded us that we should head back to Scottsboro to shop and eat sometime soon, and say hello to Hoggle. We just won’t take any peaches from him.

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Young Indiana Jones 2.13 – Barcelona, 1917

“I didn’t understand that at all,” our son grumbled. Who can blame him? This is a story about politics delivered by men talking very fast in outrageous accents. Usually while running very fast and getting stuck in doorways three at a time. It’s wonderful.

I’ve read that Terry Jones is in very poor health, and that did kind of hang over tonight’s story for me. Jones directed this lovable, ridiculous comedy escapade written by Gavin Scott. Indy gets sent to Spain to work with a trio of mostly competent spies, looking for some way to cause a breach in the neutral government’s favor one way or the other. For cover, Indy bumps into his old friend Pablo Picasso, played again by Danny Webb and who we met before in Paris, nine years earlier, who gets him a job at the Ballet Russe as a eunuch.

The spies are played by Jones, Timothy Spall, who you may know best as Wormtail in Harry Potter, and Charles McKeown, a frequent collaborator of the Pythons who appeared in Life of Brian, Fawlty Towers, four episodes of Ripping Yarns, Erik the Viking, and at least three of Terry Gilliam’s movies. They hit on a great scheme to make the Count of Toledo believe that the German cultural attache is making moves on the countess. But then a dancer at the Ballet Russe’s production of Scheherazade, played by Amanda Ooms, lets Indy know that she may be Russian, but she’s working for American intelligence, and putting these two men at odds is going to create an entirely different kind of international incident.

I love this episode. I think it’s completely ridiculous and hilarious. My wife and I chuckled and laughed all the way through the thing while our poor son scratched his head and asked what was so funny. Well, you can’t always please the entire audience!

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