Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Labyrinth.”
The Movie: “Labyrinth”
Starring: David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, Toby Froud
Director: Jim Henson
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A 15-year-old girl is given 13 hours to solve a labyrinth and rescue her baby brother when her wish for him to be taken away is granted by the Goblin King.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 69 percent
Brown: Last week’s JOE-DOWN was a little too real. Those folks from “Deliverance,” I wanted to stay far, far away from those banjo-pluckin’ weirdos traipsing through the woods being all predatory.
So I wanted to go to the fantasy world of “Labyrinth.” A world full of weirdos traipsing through the woods and being all predatory.
So I had never seen “Labyrinth” prior to this week. The only thing I knew about this movie was that David Bowie was in it as Jareth the Goblin King. And I (REDACTED) love David Bowie.
Also, this movie is referenced in one of my favorite throwaway jokes from the Adult Swim show “The Venture Bros.”
I also knew this movie was full of Jim Henson puppets (which are always welcome to me) but I didn’t know he directed this beast. And yeah, his fingerprints are all over this movie.
Frankly, as an ‘80s kid, I’m stunned this movie never came my way.
So while I make way for the Homo Superior, I’ll let Froemming give us his initial thoughts.
Froemming: I have not seen this in 30 years, and all I remembered was Bowie and the M. C. Escher-inspired stairs at the end of the film. So, you know your marquee star makes an impact when he drowns out all the fantastical imagery and crazy Muppets that fill this movie. Also, while I do not remember Jennifer Connelly in this, she did make a terrifying impact more than a decade later in “Requiem for a Dream.” That movie haunted my dreams.
Now, did this movie hold up over the years? Well, that is for us to figure out. I do know the score and much of the ‘80s synth soundtrack was wildly out of place and really distracted me from the movie.
Brown, as I watch Dewey Cox sing “Starman” in preparation for the review, why don’t you kick this off?
Brown: So before this movie really gets underway, we get subjected to a credit sequence that features a 3D owl that seems like it came straight out of a ‘90s CD-ROM game. I couldn’t stop giggling at that.
And, we find out that David Bowie did the soundtrack and… it’s probably not his best work. This soundtrack isn’t like Queen doing “Highlander” or “Flash Gordon” where the music can make an objectively bad movie good.
Froemming: But, to counter the kinda crappy soundtrack, this movie was written by Monty Python’s Terry Jones, which sold me right away. Also, “Highlander” is not a bad movie.
Brown: “Highlander” is a good time. Don’t know if it’s a good movie.
After the credits, we meet Sarah (Connelly), who looks as though she’s about to take part in Shakespeare in the park’s “Julius Caesar” prior to Laura Loomer popping up and protesting.
Sarah is practicing lines from a play called “The Labyrinth,” which I now want high schools to perform so I can see teenagers try to be David Bowie.
Froemming: I think the smug MAGA kid from the Covington Catholic High School would make a great Bowie! Both he and Jareth are kinda pure evil, live in castles and have a sense of entitlement they didn’t deserve. I guess the only difference is people actually liked Jareth.
Brown: Nah, he’s a total goblin. He doesn’t have the hair to be King.
As she’s performing the lines, she stumbles over one as she’s being leered at by an owl. Surely, she either littered or he wanted to ask about Tootsie Pops.
So yeah, Connelly at least does a solid job portraying the high school drama kid who definitely wore costumes to school and got picked on because the ‘80s were survival of the fittest.
But amidst all this line reading, owl staring and hanging out with Merlin, a fluffy dog I want to pet every minute and remind him of what a good boy he is, Sarah forgets she needs to be home to watch her baby brother Toby.
Froemming: And boy, when Sarah gets home is she pissed her parents want to go out for a night to drink away their misery. Her step-mom even points out she has nothing to do, so what is she angry about? It is raining outside, so she can’t rehearse the play in her mind in the park. Toby is already in bed. What the (REDACTED) is she so angry about?
You know, it is that kind of attitude that will get Sarah hooked on heroin decades later. At least, that’s how I see it since in my mind “Requiem for a Dream” is the bizarre sequel to this movie.
So Sarah goes into her room, where we see she lives in her own fantasy world in her head at 16, so maybe that’s why she turns to drugs later in life to kill the voices of Hoggle and Ludo screaming in her brain.
Brown: Yeah, she’s surrounded by all these toys and what-not. What a loser! Grow up, Sarah!
*Brown glances at triple-digit Funko Pop collection. Sobs*
Yeah, I didn’t get Sarah’s anger at watching her brother here. She doesn’t have anything planned and her parents put the kid to bed. Like, the hardest part of the babysitting process is over, dude. There’s no reason to be so livid that you start hoping ill will to your brother in the form of goblin kidnapping.
Nevermind the psychosis needed to hope goblins from your (REDACTED) play come and kidnap your baby brother, why the obsession with goblins? I swear, she’s like Charlie Kelly saying his likes are “Little green ghouls.”
Like Ash Williams trying to remember the words from the cursed book in “Army of Darkness,” Sarah utters the phrase that allows the goblins to come to real life and abduct Toby.
Great. It’s one thing to have a drama geek go overboard. Now we have a (REDACTED) Amber Alert.
Froemming: Oh yeah, Sarah turns the lights off, Toby stops crying and then Sarah realizes her baby brother is missing. Stolen, in fact, by a Man Who Fell To Earth! There is Little Wonder this Space Oddity came around like a Scary Monster to terrorize this Young American, because that is what she wished for. I see Changes afoot in Sarah’s life with this Starman around, but for who knows how long? Maybe 13 hours to Five Years?
Brown: I’m shocked he came. After all, he’s Afraid of Americans.
Yeah, so we see a bunch of goblins sneaking around behind Sarah. And then the owl crashes through the door as Toby is no longer in his crib.
This whole scene bothered me because as goblins and Jareth arrive, an owl (that turns out to be Jareth) breaks into the house, Toby going missing and this entire “Goonies” town that Sarah lives in turns into a goblin castle, Sarah is completely nonchalant about it. Emote, Connelly! A CHILD IS MISSING.
I swear, her town must be coated in that Xanax cloud I described in “Cowboys vs. Dinosaurs” where people are calm and collected while dinosaurs are (REDACTED) exploding.
Froemming: Sarah was the Bella Swan of the 1980s, what with the non-expressions on her face the whole time.
So Jareth gives Sarah 13 hours to figure out his labyrinth, a crazed maze with hidden doors, tomfoolery and Muppets. I love Muppets. This movie made me sad that we didn’t see more movies like this from Jim Henson.
Look, I think Sarah is actually selfish here. Toby has a chance to live a life in a wonderland right out of Jim Henson’s imagination with David Bowie. Sounds a lot cooler than the suburbia hellscape that awaits him outside the labyrinth. You know, turning 16 and drinking 40s outside a gas station, because that is the only form of entertainment in town.
So Sarah begins her journey, but sees an issue right away. Jareth’s labyrinth is nonlinear and defies to laws of physics. She goes down a path and it just never ends, much like her horrific path to heroin addiction a decade later.
Brown: You know, the wonder of entering a new world of twisted art and Muppets loses its charm when one of the first shots is a goblin peeing in a fountain. Honestly, with how non-phased Sarah is by this whole movie, we sure she isn’t already on heroin?
If Sarah doesn’t get to Toby in the 13 hours, he’ll become a goblin forever. To start her journey, she meets Hoggle, who is pretty much Surly from the Duff Amusement Park from “The Simpsons.”
Froemming: He looked suspiciously (NSFW) like this guy.
Brown: He gets Sarah started and reminds her that not everything in the labyrinth is as it seems. That gets proven further when Sarah runs into a worm who definitely should have gotten more screen time.
The worm gives us one of the funniest moments of the movie where he reveals a path for Sarah. He tells her to go right instead of left. So when she does leave, he says that all the left does is lead you to the castle, like she’s sight-seeing or something. I want a miniseries with the worm, guys.
Froemming: Oh yeah, the worm was great. I love these characters Henson and Co. came up with. I don’t find myself laughing a lot watching JOE-DOWN movies (it is often weeping when I have to watch movies about magic pants), but this one had me chuckling.
Now, Sarah is traveling this wonderland when she suddenly drops into a hole with a bunch of hands holding her up, leading me to suspect LSD was a co-writer on this movie. They ask her which direction she wants to go and she says down.
So they drop her to rock bottom, the first time she will hit this in her life, but as we saw in “Requiem for a Dream,” certainly not the last time.
But hey, while in the oubliette, Hoggle shows up again. This is a weird relationship, Sarah keeps this troll-looking oldman in the Friendzone, while he obsesses over her like Charlie does with the waitress in “It’s Always Sunny.” Which is kinda creepy when you think of the age difference with these two characters.
Brown: Well, the age difference is a problem in this whole movie, whether it’s Sarah and Hoggle or Sarah and Jareth. This was going off for me the entire runtime of this movie.
Falling into a prison (or oubliette as this movie says because terms like labyrinth and oubliette are kind of pretentious), Sarah and Hoggle eventually run into a pack of goblins poking and prodding a giant beast named Ludo. Eventually, thanks to some rolling stones, Sarah gets the goblins to flee so she can rescue the big oaf.
This would not be the last time a collaboration with the Rolling Stones ended in tragedy for Bowie.
Speaking of Bowie singing, we didn’t touch on his musical number with the goblins and Toby where I made the working theory that Jareth is The Nightman from “Always Sunny,” taking children and having trolls that definitely make people pay tolls.
Anyway, Jareth is not happy that Sarah has made it this far. He sneaks up on Hoggle like he is Spaghett, you know, spooking him, and makes a peach out of a crystal for him to drug Sarah with. So, add that to the litany of creepy crimes going on in this labyrinth. I kinda wanted to see Jareth get arrested at the end of this movie like how King Arthur does at the end of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
Brown: So after scaring off some goblins and walking through a hallway full of relatives of Olmec from “Legends of the Hidden Temple,” Sarah, Hoggle and Ludo reach a forest where Ludo is separated from the group. Then, Sarah is ambushed by a group of things called Fireys.
And, this leads to the outright strangest moment of the movie. This is a movie with goblin puppets, David Bowie in a glam metal wig and later, a swamp filled with prolapsed anuses. And THIS is the most disturbing thing to me.
This is also the worst green screen I’ve seen and we’ve seen some (REDACTED) on the JOE-DOWN.
Froemming: It is what I imagine what a bad acid trip at a Grateful Dead concert would be like.
Brown: I think this scene is literal Christian Hell.
Froemming: So, a bad acid trip at a Grateful Dead concert?
Sarah does what any sane person would do and starts popping heads off and throwing them, only to be followed by these creatures…
Yup. Exactly what a bad acid trip at a Grateful Dead concert would be like.
Brown: To be fair, Sarah beheading those things… that’s pretty (REDACTED) metal.
Froemming: She is like the Highlander!
Hoggle shows up to save the day, and they encounter the closest thing I have seen that would be Brown and I in a movie: Snarky door knockers who make fun of one another. Sarah figures out which door to knock on, and they enter, only to find more trouble that leads them to the Pits of Nasty Farts, wait, the Bog of Eternal Stench which I guess is just splitting hairs on the title.
Brown: They get sent to the Bog of Eternal Stench because Sarah kissed Hoggle. I feel like with a change in diet and some fiber supplements, the Bog of Eternal Stench can turn things around, but lifestyle changes are hard.
After working through some more peril, the two do come across Ludo, which is now a name I’m considering for a dog. Now a trio, Sarah, Hoggle and Ludo are stopped at a bridge by a British fox (I think) named Sir Didymus.
Yeah, Sir Didymus is the type of guy that calls girls he’s trying to pick up m’lady and probably goes on long-winded 4chan rants about how girls only like bad guys and don’t want to be treated like princesses as he makes an Ilhan Omar anti-American photoshop to quell his sexual frustration.
Froemming: I bet he thinks Hoggle is such a Brad or Chad.
Well, they need to get past this weirdo, but he somehow thwarts them, much in the same mind boggling way Chucky from “Child’s Play” terrorizes full-grown adults. It makes zero sense and a good old-fashioned punt would easily take care of the problem. It turns out, all they need to get past him is his permission, which he grants since nobody has bothered to ever ask him.
Then we get to the bridge, which Sir Didymus somehow causes to collapse as Sarah is walking across it. I mean, the swamp is not lava or anything, and if one touches it they will smell forever, but given Sarah’s tragic future as a junkie, that’s going to happen anyway, so why worry?
But Ludo uses his powers to summon boulders for her to walk across. Which has to be the weirdest superpower I have seen in a movie.
Brown: I’d love to see playgrounds in the ‘80s filled with kids playing superheroes and some kid is howling, hoping that rocks move. That would have been tragically hilarious.
Didymus and his trusted steed Ambrosius.
Ambrosius is Merlin with a saddle. This was me when I saw that.
But, all is not well when a conflicted Hoggle gives Sarah the peach from Jareth. Predictably, we go on a trip.
And this weird movie proceeds to get weirder.
Froemming: Jareth and Sarah were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember Sarah saying something like “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive….” And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around them and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to the castle.
So Sarah hallucinates she is at a ball that looks like something out of a Terry Gilliam fever dream, where Jareth looms and leers at her and sings. It — it was truly bizarre, and is one of those moments I was pretty creeped out by Jareth, not in a horror fashion, but calling mall security on a pervert fashion.
Brown: With how it was shot, my first thought was the ballroom scene was like the orgy scene from “Zoolander,” which made me all sorts of uncomfortable.
But during this dream sequence, Sarah remembers that she’s after her brother and she gets dumped into a junkyard, which looks a lot like how America looks in “Idiocracy.” Surely, Sarah got tetanus.
This junkyard, it’s littered with old hoarder women who brainwash Sarah into thinking it was all a dream
where she used to read Word Up! Magazine.
And here you see where all the different toys in her room resemble the characters we’ve run into through this movie. But with all she’s gone through, Sarah is ready to grow up and give up her childhood toys and grow up.
*Brown looks back at Funkos, thinks Sarah is lame*
Froemming: Sarah realizes it is all fake and destroys her bedroom like Eric Andre destroying the set of his TV show.
And she escapes through a hole in the wreckage, and is back in the America of “Idiocracy,” maybe on her way to confront the House of Representin’.
She is rescued by Ludo and Sir Didymus, who happen to have been just hanging around in a junkyard.
Now it is back to the mission at hand: The Battle for the Iron Throne! Wait, no, that is “Game of Thrones.” It is time to rescue Toby from the glam rock clutches of Jareth the Goblin King!
Brown: But first, Sarah, Ludo, Sir Didymus and Hoggle have to basically lay waste to an entire town with everything but the kitchen sink and eventually, more sentient rocks.
Ludo goes to the top of a house and starts his growl that gets the boulders to come. I kind of wish this is what came out of his mouth instead.
And if you’re asking yourself, “Movie, are you cliche enough to use a bowling joke in this moment,” yes. There’s a bowling joke involved.
With all the minions subdued, the foursome enter the Goblin King’s castle. But, Sarah elects to go it alone to save her baby brother.
God, I hate this in movies. Screw nobility, he KIDNAPPED YOUR BABY BROTHER.
Froemming: Is it really kidnapping when she asked him to do it? This is not all on Jareth.
Brown: No, you’re right. But he’s still kind of a pedophile so I just don’t want him around anything younger than 18.
Froemming: She goes it alone, and finds herself trapped in M. C. Escher’s “Relativity” painting. And we see Jareth defying the laws of physics in here as well, what walking upside down while singing at the same time.
Sarah sees Toby doing the same thing, which makes the whole scenario a little frightening. But she sees her chance and jumps and everything crumbles, she called Jareth’s insane bluff, if that what this crazy stairway thing was, and now he says he has done enough for her, that he did all this for her and she now should play ball with him, which given her tragic future in heroin, will not be the last time someone pulls an emotional abuse like that on her.
Brown: Declaring that Jareth has no power over her, Sarah is able to finally rescue Toby, turning Jareth back into an owl…?
OK, sure. We’ve seen some crazy (REDACTED) here. And the movie is very awe-inspiring visually that I’m OK with all of it.
Realizing that it’s time to grow up, Sarah gives Toby one of her teddy bears and starts to rid her room of some of her childhood belongings.
But, then we see some of the characters from the Goblin world come into Sarah’s room like they’re Summer’s imaginary friend Tinkles from “Rick and Morty.”
All the while, an owl stares in the window like a (REDACTED) perverted Rebel Rebel.
So, like ground control to Major Tom, we should call out our recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: I would. It’s visually stimulating and extremely charming. The acting… isn’t great, but this is straight-up ‘80s childhood fun.
Froemming: Absolutely. The only thing that really bothered me was the score, which did not fit in with what we saw on the screen. But other than that, it is a fun film.