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Goblins, Girls & Dancing Puppets

Seeing that George Lucas produced Jim Henson’s Labyrinth (1986), we should be thankful that striking a new 35 mm print is all that was done for the film’s reissue this week. No digital face-lifts for Henson’s foam and cloth creatures, here, just a fresh view on an overlooked, if uneven, classic. Labyrinth has too weak a grip on its tone to be Henson’s best fantasy outing (see The Dark Crystal for that). Young Jennifer Connelly effuses doe-eyed pathos as a troubled adolescent who braves the dangers of an ever-shifting maze to rescue her infant brother from the clutches of goblins. While David Bowie, as the Goblin King, swings the film wildly into camp territory cavorting through painfully awkward dance numbers with all manner of chattering, flailing, dancing, singing and ever-unpredictable puppets. It’s the kind of excessive mélange that could only have been produced in the 1980s. That said, Labyrinth exudes the timeless quality that all of Henson’s work shares with Ray Harryhausen’s: a tactile sense of the cinemagician’s craft. Unlike so much of today’s digital output, Labyrinth is fantasy you could almost reach out and touch. (Nuart)

—Paul Malcolm


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