The story of Labyrinth is simple enough; young Sarah, fed up of babysitting, wishes the goblins would come and take her baby brother away, and they do. Sarah didn't mean it of course, and has to travel through the mysterious Labyrinth to rescue baby Toby from the Goblin King (not actually a goblin, but David Bowie in very tight tights). There's a pretty dark undertone to this story, as the reason the goblins take Toby away is that the Goblin King, a much older man, is in love with 14-year-old Sarah, but it manages to stay on the right side of creepy, with the shadows just giving it an edge rather than rendering it unpleasant or inappropriate.
The screenplay was written by Terry Jones, based on a story by Jim Henson and Dennis Lee. Watching the film as a child, it just seems funny and exciting, but as an adult, you can start to see the marks of Python on the film, in the best way. Who else would introduce a major character by showing him peeing into an ornamental pond? And follow that up by showing him shooting mean-spirited fairies? And who else could have written the wonderful concept of the Bog of Eternal Stench - an absurdly perfect threat for a children's movie, not too horrific, but at the same time something that sounds utterly terrible in an entertaining way to a small child.
The story is also full of the sweetness needed in these films as well. Ultimately, it's a story about friendship (though it slips in a few pleas to children to understand that life isn't fair along the way). Jones' sharp screenplay gives it bite, but its heart is soft and sweet, with gentle giant Ludo, noble Sir Didymus and scarred, lonely Hoggle reminding Sarah of the wonders of childhood even as she undergoes a rite of passage and throws away childish things, realising that childhood demons have no power over her.
The film is also both hilarious (as you'd expect) and exciting. As young children, my brother and I used to jump around on the sofa pretending to be trying not to fall into the Bog of Eternal Stench, or cower under the table calling 'Call the rocks!' And I think every little girl my age desperately wanted to be Sarah in the beautiful, just-creepy-enough ballroom dream scene, complete with magnificently 1980s huge, white, puffy ballgown and big hair (dancing choreographed by Star Trek: The Next Generation's Gates/Cheryl McFadden).
And for the grown-ups, David Bowie in eyeliner and aforementioned very tight tights. I shall say no more.
Brought alive by the great songs (of course, it's Bowie), Jones' witty script highlighted with the great voices of the Henson workshop ('Its so stimulating being your head!') and culminating in a fabulous MC Escher-inspired set-piece which we also tried unsuccessfully to replicate in the living room, Labyrinth is one of my favourite holiday films. I only hope one day, if I ever have kids, they enjoy it as much as I did!
Sarah: I can bear it no longer! Goblin King! Goblin King! Wherever you may be take this child of mine far away from me!
Goblin: That's not it! Where did she get that rubbish? It doesn't even start with "I wish!"
Sarah: Did you say... hello?
Worm: No, I said "'allo," but that's close enough.
Goblin Cannonball: I hit something! Yes? No?
Jareth (singing): Everything I've done, I've done for you. I move the stars for no one.
If you love the creatures and costumes in Labyrinth, check out Brian and Wendy Froud's lovely and charming blog. If you want to feel old, check out the guest post written by their son Toby - who played baby Toby in Labyrinth!