Archive for category General

Labyrinth Back in Canadian Theatres!

For one day only, the Labyrinth is back! Check the link below to see the details, but here’s the low down:

  • March 19, 2012
  • Canadian theatres only
  • Cineplex theatres
  • Not in my town  😥

What kind of magic spell to use?

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Baby Girl Sings “Magic Dance”


I’ve always hated the idea of a remake of the Labyrinth, but after this, I’m not so sure.

So cute!

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Sarah’s Parents are Weird

In The Labyrinth, we only get a few minutes on Sarah’s life before things take a turn for the Bowied. We see her play acting in the park, run through the city, and get all up in Toby’s business. But aside from that, we also have a brief scene with Sarah’s parents – or at least her father and step-mother.

The step-mother we see first, looking fierce in a very 80s outfit with a linebacker’s shoulder pads. The dad we see next, boring and every bit the prototypical suburban father. They exchange a few words:

“She treats me like a wicked stepmother in a fairy story no matter what I say”

“I’ll talk to her.”

The dubbing of the lines is truly atrocious. I’d be curious to know if they actually ever spoke their lines, or just mouthed them and had them filled in later. Their acting (“acting”) is pretty weak, with no real emotions coming through. The timing is strangely forced also, as if the scene had been compressed during the editing process.

There are a couple ways to take this. The more obvious interpretation would be that the actors just phoned it in, the dubbing guy was half asleep, and no one really cared about this scene since it doesn’t do much. Henson didn’t worry about it, or didn’t notice the flaws.

She treats me like a wicked stepmother in a fairy story no matter what I say.

Bad actress or meta-textual reference to Sarah's fantasy bias?

I prefer an alternate interpretation, which maintains an internal consistency within the movie, and doesn’t require the director to be temporarily deaf and blind:

The parent scenes are flawed and dull because they are the only part of the film that is not fantasy.

The parent scene is the only one with the strained acting, off dubbing, off timing, and peculiar characterization. It is also the only scene that is not in some way fantasy. Even the earlier scenes in the part, Sarah is acting and playing. In her room, everything around her is a fantasy. In Toby’s room, she imagines that a Goblin King will take him away (and starts the events of the movie.)

The parents’ day-to-day lives, when compared to the richness of Sarah’s fantasy, are completely mundane, mis-timed, and flawed. The movie, as an extension of Sarah’s mind, perceives the characters in relation and comparison to her play-world. As a result, they appear drab and malformed.

Much like the artificial bird at the close of Lynch’s Blue Velvet, the apparent cinematic errors here draw our attention to the falsity of the scene. Unlike Blue Velvet, it is not because the scene is a fantasy, but because it is not a fantasy. Since Sarah’s fantasy is the focus of the movie, it becomes the reality, subverting “real life.” The true reality thereby becomes unreal – the parents are broken, reduced to actors playing poorly dubbed parts. Meanwhile, puppets provide real emotional substance.

Not only does this effect weaken our hold on reality, but it helps to better create the vibrant fantasy reality of the movie.

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The Labyrinth original trailer

The excitement of David Bowie?

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Piece of Cake!

Piece of cake!

The Labyrinth’s a piece of cake? Let’s see you deal with this slice.

As The Labyrinth starts, Sarah has the catchphrase, it’s not fair! Sarah learns her lesson when Hoggle repeats it:

“Them’s my rightful property! It’s not fair!”

“No, it isn’t. But that’s the way it is…”

But there’s another repeating phrase in The Labyrinth – piece of cake. This one get’s repeated by a few different characters throughout the movie.

Sarah first says it after solving the door riddle:

“I’ve figured it out. I couldn’t do it before. I think I’m getting smarter. Piece of cake!”

(Sarah then falls right into the helping hands hole, and into the oubliette.)

Later, Jareth says to Sarah “How are you enjoying my Labyrinth?” Sarah responds “it’s a piece of cake.”

Jareth then speeds up the Toby countdown, saying “The Labyrinth’s a piece of cake? Let’s see you deal with this slice.”

(The cleaners come along.)

When the gang arrives in the goblin city, Sarah says ”I think we’re going to make it.” Hobble replies “oh, piece of cake!”

(Then, a new squad of goblin soldiers attacks.)

Each time a character says this, things immediately get worse. Much like the “it’s not fair” line, there’s a lesson for Sarah here. Hoggle says earlier that “You know what your problem is? You take too much for granted.” Whenever someone assumes that things are going right, that life is simple, and that they know everything – the Labyrinth teaches them otherwise.



Among everything else, The Labyrinth is a pedagogical device. But it may be less sophisticated than that. The method that The Labyrinth teaches is through behavioral modification – it’s essentially Pavlovian.

When Sarah or another character does something wrong (like assume their superiority with a “piece of cake” comment) bad things start to happen. When Sarah does something right (learn a lesson about taking things for granted, or about how life isn’t fair) things start to go right.

Sarah’s growth and education isn’t so much about her learning the hows and whys of life, but being punished for wrong-thinking, and rewarded for right-thinking.

The end result is the same, Sarah conquers the Labyrinth and matures, but it’s unsettling to think that it’s not a product of her own will. Sarah’s lessons are imposed on her from the outside.

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Labyrinth Questions – When a Dog Rides a Dog

On the Sir Didymus and Ambrosius page, I commented on how weird it was that one dog rode the other.

Here’s the situation as I see it:

  • Didymus is some kinds of terrier. Ambrosius is an Old English Sheepdog.
  • In the non-Labyrinth world, Ambrosius is Sarah’s dog, Merlin, and Didymus is a puppet.
  • In the Labyrinth world, Sir Didymus the dog is a valiant knight, and Ambrosius is still a dog: Didymus rides Ambrosius.
Sir Didymus in the act of oppressing Ambrosius

Sir Didymus in the act of oppressing Ambrosius

Think about the kind of humanity that each of these characters has – the differences are profound, despite their shared species.

Why does Didymus talk, and Ambrosius not talk?

In The Labyrinth, are some breeds of dog superior to others?

Is there some kind of terrier supremacy movement?

Sir Didymus, Ambrosius and Hoggle

"Sure, I'm gonna betray Sarah - at least I'm not riding a naked dwarf"

But why then does Ambrosius have the ability to clearly understand English and follow directions?

Is Ambrosius held in servitude to Didymus? Is this a form of indentured labor? Where is the move for dog equality?

And why doesn’t Ambrosius wear clothes? He’s got a saddle, but that barely compares to Sir Didymus’ elaborate get-up.

What if Hoggle rode around a mute, naked, subservient dwarf? I don’t think that would go over nearly so smoothly. What if Bowie rode around Mick Jagger or someth- oh….

As if that wasn’t enough, Ambrosius has to hang around the Bog of Eternal Stench. We know that Didymus doesn’t smell it, but why wouldn’t Ambrosius? He’s profoundly dog-like in most other ways- why wouldn’t his nose be?

That’s a pretty cruel place to keep a dog.

It’s also interesting to note the specifics of Didymus’ accent – his archaic English places him in another time. A older time, distinguished by royalty, class, and… slavery.

In conclusion, Sir Didymus is a tool of canine class-ist, species-ist oppression. Woof.

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