Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #4

Re: Labyrinth (1986)

I was both surprised and pleased that you actually reviewed Labyrinth. Surprised, because it just doesn’t seem to be the sort of thing anyone really needs to review, and please because it deserves some attention. I think, though, you missed the point of the movie.

Actually, I think you missed it by trying to find one. That’s why Labyrinth is so difficult to review. Both fans and detractors alike couldn’t care less. As my sister (who hates the movie) says, “It’s David Bowie in tight pants and a blond mullet. That says enough.” She wouldn’t watch the movie if there was a point (and I wouldn’t enjoy it any more).

The purpose of the movie, like Alice in Wonderland (the book) is practically non-existent. Yes, there are some moral lessons to be learned about selfishness, growing up, et cetera. But who watches Labyrinth for that? No one, as far as I know. People watch Labyrinth because it doesn’t make sense. Its like a pleasant (or not so pleasant) romp in childhood dreamlands. Nothing is as it seems (which is something along the lines of the tagline).

But it’s fun. You sit back, relax, and enjoy the absolute absurdity and undeniable stupidity of it all. Why does everything happen? Why must the heroine do what she does? Is any of it real? I don’t think there are answers, and fans haven’t bothered to find out. Like the inexplicably dressing in goblin masks, or singing Magic Dance down hallways in the mall, enjoying the movie doesn’t make sense. Its like that quote from Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (I paraphrase): It doesn’t have to have a point. That’s why it’s candy.

Now, like candy, sometimes it’s a little too sweet and pointless for some. You also can’t live off of it. But, for me, I can revel in the inexplicable song-and-dance sequences, the pointless hash of minor characters and the pit of helping hands just as I can enjoy the memories of the childhood games I used to play (which were oddly similar). Yes, your brain will never find a reason for Labyrinth, but your imagination can be tickled, and eccentric people can be sent on happy trains of nostalgia.

I don’t think that the movie was trying to be a Wizard of Oz. I’ve read the Brian Froud books, and watched the makings of the movie, and I think it was mean’t to be just what it turned out as. What that is is still a mystery, but fans don’t care. Secondly, the world of the Labyrinth, as far as I could tell, came out of Sara’s head. So, the fact that all of the supporting characters are there for her makes perfect sense. Also, fairytales tend to have this same “flaw.” I think Labyrinth is a fairytale. Why do gates that need to be oiled by good maidens exist? Do they have aspirations? Nobody cares. It’s the maiden’s journey that we care about.

At any rate, I think that you were looking too deeply into the whole affair. I’ve seen the movie numerous times, and every time its more fun and less reasonable. Trying to find meaning in The Labyrinth is like trying to find meaning in Jabberwocky. Once you accept that there isn’t any meaning, you can enjoy the film, gaze in awe at the puppetry (and wish that computers had not replaced them) and sing obnoxiously along to the 1980s soundtrack.

Who says you have to find meaning in candy? Dance, magic dance! Jump, magic jump!

Film critics always miss the point. That’s why it’s film criticism.

But take heart. You are exactly the reason I rated the movie “C,” meaning “your call,” instead of something lower. If you get that much out of it (and I suspected you were out there when I wrote my review), I have no objection. (With movies rating lower than a “C,” I do have an objection.)

I can’t resist noting that the movie version of The Wizard of Oz also suggested that the whole adventure came out of Dorothy’s head, but that didn’t mean that the whole story was all about her and the other characters were only there to support her.

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