In honor of the passing of David Bowie, I made my family watch Labyrinth. Yes, “made,” because this movie is a classic! Before your family watches it, here are a few things to consider.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
They just don’t make movies like they used to
More than once, I have shown my kids movies from my youth that I had a nostalgic fondness for—ET, The Goonies, all of the Muppet Movies, The Dark Chrystal, Willow, The Princess Bride, Star Wars, Indiana Jones (the list could go on and on!)…those movies are classics! However, every once in a while something pops up in these movies that I had either not noticed to begin with, or had completely forgotten about, causing my husband and I to shoot each other uncomfortable, sideways glances.
I regret nothing!!! But, I do wish I had remembered some of that was in there before I showed them to my kids.
It’s in that spirit that I want to recommend to you the movie Labyrinth, which I made my family watch in honor of the passing of David Bowie. (Yes, “made.” Most were willing, but there are always one or two dissenters).
Here’s what to know before the show.
In case you somehow (through some sad deprivation or lapse in parenting skills) missed seeing this movie, here is a recap.
A whiny, over-dramatic teenage girl named Sarah has to babysit her half-brother, who she resents because her dad remarried after her mom apparently died. She’s been busy trying to memorize lines from a play called “Labyrinth” when she gets fed up with the crying baby. Thinking that she’s just saying lines from the story, she comforts herself by “asking” the Goblin King to take the baby away. Well, he does, and now she’s in a predicament. She goes on a quest to get the baby back—meeting all kinds of fun characters along the way, ultimately defeating the Goblin King and getting the baby back (do you have to say “spoilers” when the movie is almost 30 years old?).
There are some really terrific aspects to this movie that could not be replicated today. The glitter budget alone must have been staggering. Almost no chickens were harmed in the making of the movie—and that’s saying a lot, because this movie is surprisingly FULL of chickens who were present in many action scenes. Most of the characters are straight out of the imagination of Jim Henson, voiced by Frank Oz. The all-original music is written and performed by David Bowie (and Muppets), and is the kind of stuff you still would sing with your siblings and friends all these years later. There are lessons of friendship, determination, fairness, honor, freedom, family, how evil tries to distract you from your destiny and courage. Did I mention the chickens? It’s a cute, funny, heartwarming movie everyone should see at some point.
There are a couple of times in the movie where mildly bad language is used—this is a staple of 80’s kids movies. There are moments when more sensitive children might be a little creeped out or nervous. I think that kids under the years of 5 or 6 might not take so well to it. Some of the scenes could be a little bit scary or tense. There is some Muppet violence. A couple of scenes have such bad green screen that any kid will have something to say about it—some points were almost MST3K worthy.
And then there’s Jareth…the Goblin King.
His pants…tights…leggings…whatever they are and the way they fit him have almost become their own character in the memory of kids my age. And the camera shots often exploit this. I think kids won’t notice (I didn’t until I was significantly older), but it will probably make parents chuckle.
It is always my recommendation that parents should preview anything that they aren’t entirely sure of before showing it to their kids. I absolutely love this movie, I feel that it offers several themes that can make for great family discussions: from the low-techness of it, to materialism. Even my most finicky child got into it when he finally stopped resisting not wanting to like “one of mom’s dumb 80’s movies.”
You can preview this movie on Amazon.