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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Labyrinth (1986)
Labyrinth (1986)
Columbia/Tri-Star // PG // January 27, 2004
List Price: $49.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted February 5, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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The Movie

Jim Henson and George Lucas need no introduction - Star Wars and The Muppets have been household names for some time now. Likewise, David Bowie is famous the world over and has been for a few decades now, with his alien like features and instantly recognizable voice. Jennifer Connelly won an Academy Award a few years back for her turn in A Beautiful Mind and got a whole lot of critical acclaim for her part in Darren Aronofsky's Requiem For A Dream. Throw in a script by former Monty Python member Terry Jones, the vocal talents of Frank Oz and conceptual designed by Brian Froud and you'd figure that Labyrinth would be a sure fire knock out hit, right?

Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is a teenage girl who gets upset with her parents when they make her baby sit her baby brother, Toby, one night. In fact, she's so steamed over this that she wishes that goblins would come and take him away for good so that she'll never have to be bothered by watching him again. Well, Sarah learns the hard way to watch what you say and soon enough, she inadvertently conjures up some goblins who whisk Toby off to Jareth The Goblin King (David Bowie), where he will eventually transform into a goblin himself.

When she panics and eventually meets face to face with Jareth, she tells him that she wants her brother back, but it's not going to be that east for her. Jareth agrees to return Toby is Sarah can make her way through a huge labyrinth in thirteen hours, for in the middle of the labyrinth is where Toby is safely stashed away. If she makes it in time, she can return safely with him, if not, Jareth gets to keep Toby for good.

So, it's off to the maze for Sarah who gets into all sorts of trouble along the way as she makes acquaintances with the many bizarre creatures that inhabit this strange world. Some of them befriend her, while some of them set out to stop her from completing her quest (and all of them are puppets). She eventually befriends an ogre/dwarf creature named Hoggle, a giant furry beast named Luda, and a fox named Sir Didymus who rides around on a sheepdog. Together the four of them make their way to the center of the maze to rescue Toby and set things right.

When this movie came out theatrically in 1986, I was eleven years old I remember thinking at the time that it was a pretty cool film, but that it was geared to younger kids, maybe in the six to ten year old range. My sophisticated eleven year old sensibilities were far too mature to admit to liking a movie mostly comprised of Muppets. As I've gotten older, I've thankfully come to terms with my love of Muppets and now that I've had the chance to reevaluate the film, I'm almost saddened that I didn't give it more of a shot as a kid.

The fantasy elements of the film work well, the effects, though slightly dated, are still a lot of fun, and while a lot of the humor is undeniably juvenile, it's still pretty funny. I definitely enjoyed the movie more now as a (theoretically) grown up than I did as the pre-teen brat I used to be.

That's not to say the movie isn't without it's faults though. David Bowie comes across as kind of silly in a few scenes and Connelly's Oscar winning acting skills hadn't exactly been fully developed at this point in her career, but for what is, at the core, essentially a kids movie, Labyrinth is a lot of fun.

Video:

The re-mastered high definition transfer (which is the same one used on the Superbit release that came out a while ago, though it looks better here) is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35.1 and is enhanced for anamorphic television sets. There's a little bit of mild print damage that appears in the form of some specks here and there, and some really minor edge enhancement is noticeable in a few scenes, but those two small issues aside, this transfer looks great. The level of detail noticeable here is very high and the colors are dead on. Blacks never break up and remain constantly strong from start to finish. Some of the blue screen effects look a little more obvious here than they did on earlier, inferior transfers, which I suppose is to the films' detriment in a sense. But I can't say that part of the reason they stand out more than they did the last time I saw the movie is because technical advances in special effects have made them harder to discern from the organics of a film, rather than the fault of the transfer itself.

Audio

Labyrinth has been given a new Dolby Digital 5.1 remix in English, and has removable subtitles available in English and Spanish. Channel separation is clear and distinct with nice sub woofer response in the deeper sounding moments of the mix. The majority of the mix comes at you from the front of the soundstage but there is ample opportunity here for your rears to sneak up on you when the action kicks in. No hiss or audible defects to report, everything comes through quite nicely, including Bowie's musical numbers and the score by Trevor Jones. The DTS track that was on the Superbit release is not on this disc.

Extras:

The main extra feature here is the same as the original (non-Superbit) release – the made for TV documentary from 1986, Inside The Labyrinth which takes a look at the making of the film. It's an interesting look back at the movie and features interviews with pretty much everyone involved with the film, from Bowie to the late Jim Henson. Running three minutes shy of an hour in running time, it's well worth a look if you enjoyed the feature film.

Aside from the documentary, there's also a fullframe trailer for the film and a second trailer for The Dark Crystal as well. A promotional television spot for Jim Henson's Storytellers can also be found here as can a massive gallery of conceptual and promotional artwork, totaling one hundred stills, that covers behind the scenes action, character sketches, poster art, story boards, and more.

Included within the actual packaging (that's made up to look like a book), are six collector's edition postcards that reproduce Brian Froud's creature designs, an animation cel/scene composite card, and a booklet that house some more of Froud's artwork and some brief liner notes.

So what we have here is pretty good, but it's still not exactly definitive. There could have been more images included in the gallery. Bowie's music video from the time of the release could have been included. Henson is gone but Bowie, Connelly, and Lucas are all around, so why not a commentary track? There's also supposedly some additional footage and animation that was done but not used in the final version of the film. None of that is included here either. Considering that this is the third time that Columbia has released the movie on DVD, you'd think that they'd have put 100% into making this the ultimate release of the movie.

Final Thoughts:

Most of the effects hold up really well and Labyrinth is still, after all these years, a pretty entertaining fairy tale that makes for good entertainment for children of all ages. Columbia Tri Star has done a great job on the disc with solid a/v and a nice selection of extra features sure to interest fans of the movie. The disc comes highly recommended though the $49.95 M. S. R. P. seems staggerinly high.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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