Late To The Party: Labyrinth


Hi, can I talk to you about Labyrinth for a sec? You know, the 80’s movie with David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly? Have you seen it? Can I ask you some questions about it real quick? I just watched it for the first time. I know a LOT of people who love this movie very deeply, and I’m tremendously confused. Did I hate this movie? I just have so many questions.

If you haven’t seen it, I’ll try and sum it up for you. This girl Sarah has to babysit her baby brother. And she’s super annoyed because she has cosplaying to do, plus everything sucks when you’re a smart teenage girl with a jerk family. So, she wishes for goblins to come steal her brother, which they do. Because apparently you just have to ask the right way and goblins will come take your jerk baby away? And then she has to battle Goblin King David Bowie by going through a scary maze to get her brother back. Along the way she makes friends, and has adventures, and it’s like The Wizard of Oz meets Monty Python meets… cocaine maybe? Oh, and also there are Muppets. Is this making sense? Because if so it is absolutely by accident, nothing about this movie makes sense to me. 

Like, let me talk to you about the Goblin King for a minute. Am I crazy or is he not a goblin? There are a whole lot of examples in this movie as to what a goblin looks like (they look like scary muppets) and although David Bowie is definitely otherwordly, he does not look goblin-esque, or muppet-esque. Or is that how he became king? By being the handsomest goblin? ALSO. What exactly does he do all day? Does he just wait around for someone to wish for their baby to get stolen? Does he have any other duties? He does sing a song at one point so that’s fun. But like, what’s his whole deal?

Quick q, is David Bowie hot in this movie? I legitimately don’t know the answer to this one. On the one hand he definitely has a certain allure, but on the other hand he is a little bit evil and appears to be wearing the 80’s version of Nars Orgasm lip gloss most of the time which would make him gross to kiss. (Look, I’m sorry but I am not going to discuss his Magic Pants. I’m just not getting into that.) At some points his voice sounds exactly like Jemaine Clement, so that’s definitely hot. But then other times he sounds just like Matt Berry, whom I love but do not find hot. See what I mean? So many questions! I will say, the Goblin King seems genuinely fond of the baby, which is always an appealing quality.


Which reminds me. Why don’t I care about this baby? I usually care about babies, babies are great! I definitely hate it when a baby is in danger!  But I literally do not care about this baby. In fact in my notes it says “the baby is safe, who cares.” I was way more invested in the fate of Sarah’s friend Hoggle, who’s like a muppet Paul Reiser/Colleen Dewhurst hybrid. Actually all of her friends are pretty adorable-we’ve got sweet giant Ludo and his rock-telepathy, Sir Didymus who is basically a brave and weird little dog thing…okay maybe I didn’t totally hate this movie. 

Except, hang on. Who are these guys? 

The “Fireys”?? Why do they have Jamaican accents? Am I looking at a Jar Jar Binks style misfire here, or am I just being sensitive? And their song. Woof. I’m biased because I nearly always hate songs in movies, like, A LOT, but this was probably the most I have ever hated a song in a movie. I assume this was supposed to come across as charming comic relief, but this was a pretty big swing and miss.

Was there maybe cocaine involved in the making of this movie? Wait, are you mad at me now? I realize it’s considered kind of uncool to say anything bad about Jim Henson, like how it’s a federal offense in most parts of the country to say anything rude about Mr. Rogers or Dolly Parton (I WOULD NEVER).  So I’m not saying it was Jim Henson’s cocaine, although if you are starting a girl power punk band, “Jim Henson’s Cocaine” might be a fun name. I’m just speculating that maybe someone here was thinking with the cocaine part of their brain. And maybe that’s how the Fireys came about.

Another thing. Is Sarah the only girl in this movie? Sure, this is a fairy tale, and I’m well aware that before the invention of Frozen we were allowed one non-evil human female character per fairy tale at most. And of course the mom is not around because of Movie Rules. But outside of the stepmother, there are random women in masks during the proto-Eyes Wide Shut dream sequence, and that’s it. Are there no female goblins? Wait, do goblins have genders? How can you tell? You know what, never mind, I don’t want the answer to this question anymore. 

But that reminds me. What’s the deal with Sarah’s mom?? There are several shots where you see pictures of her beautiful actress mother (and in case you didn’t get it the word MOM surrounded by hearts numerous times) and then we kinda never hear anything about it. Is there a subplot that got cut out of this movie? Did her mom leave her to go be on Broadway or in a soap opera? And if that’s the case, could her Dad please cut her some slack and maybe be less of a jerk?  

Seriously. Why are Sarah’s parents such jerks? Like, her stepmom is making her feel bad for not dating, but also expecting her to babysit every weekend, plus is she even old enough to date? (Sarah’s age is very confusing to me, I want to guess fourteen? That seems young for dating, creep!) Plus her dad says “we put Toby to bed!” which is a straight LIE because sure, maybe you put him in the crib (in a room that also contains a large canopy bed? what?) but you just left him there screaming his head off and were like, welp, good luck first daughter that I don’t care much about! And one more thing- when they get home, at midnight, her dad says “Sarah? Are you home?” which, I’m sorry, did he think she might not be home? Was he assuming she maybe would have run away? But he was like, “too bad, I’ve got to feed the flames of 80’s Model Evil Stepmother, so I’ll take the risk that Toby didn’t cry himself to death or get kidnapped or fall to his death out of an Escher poster”? Ugh. What a jerk. 

And another thing. I’ve heard Sarah referred to as a “terrible” babysitter, and I’m like, say what now? This is flat out wrong. Sure, she asked goblins to take her sibling off her hands- who hasn’t? Some fully grown adults feel that way about their own kid under enough stress, and this little gal is… Fourteen? Sixteen maybe? (Man I really wish they would have specified this, it’s bothering me.) But come on. She’s undertaking a lot for her age, is what I’m saying. 

If there is one part of this movie I can relate to like mad, it’s being an adolescent forced to watch a howling baby (I mean, my sister turned out awesome but she didn’t get cool until she was almost three) when you would rather be in your room doing your own very important stuff (listening to the Top Gun soundtrack on your walkman and practicing eye shadow application). Whereas this chick went into a terrifying spooky world of the unknown to find this ridiculous baby!  She was working really hard out there, she even went through the disgusting Bog of Eternal Stench for crying out loud, just to get this dumb kid! And she was also super sweet, and determined and smart, and she grew as a person, and she made creatures that didn’t have any friends feel seen and loved! Wait, do I sort of like this movie?

Here’s something I’ve been thinking about. Was Sarah just dreaming? I love a good “it was all a dream” reveal as much as the next Wizard of Oz superfan. At the beginning of the movie you can see several of the elements that are about to come into play in her room- a weird dog-thing like Sir Didymus, the Escher poster, a hot/weird Bowie-looking doll, and even a marble labyrinth. And at the end, she’s smart enough to save her dumb brother and wind up safe at home. She realizes that she had the power all along! She turns David Bowie back into a magic owl! But there’s no dream reveal. All we learn is that she can still call on the friends she made in the Labyrinth whenever she needs them, because they’ll always be there for her, and we never really lose the friends who love us and makes us feel safe, and why am I crying and wait HANG ON I THINK I LOVED THIS MOVIE. 

My final question is this. Why wasn’t this my favorite movie growing up? I feel robbed that I didn’t get to see this when it came out. I was one hundred percent that dork, a pasty brunette who’d wear a princess dress over jeans and memorize book passages to yell at innocent dogs in parks. I was also known to sullenly yell “it’s not FAIR” like Sarah frequently does, and to have way more imaginary friends than real ones (that last part might actually still be the case). Sarah would have been exactly the hero I needed. I still have lots of questions about this movie- why a hallucinogenic peach? Why are there so many chickens in the Goblin Castle? It sounds like David Bowie sings “magic junk” at one point in his song, am I hearing that correctly? But ultimately who cares. The real treasure was the friends we made along the way, imaginary or not. And for a grownup girl who might still have her beloved childhood teddy bear in her room at all times to join in dance parties (don’t worry about it) this movie makes my inner lonely weirdo feel very seen. I guess I needed a celebration of imaginary friends more than I even realized right now. Come for the Glorious Bowie Pants, but stay for the Smart Girl Magic.