I spent about six hours last night and this morning taking screencaps from every part of Labyrinth. Along the way, I noticed something very irritating: Labyrinth repeats itself constantly. This isn’t about thematic consistency. No, this is more mundane. The film recycles on a simple level [e.g., with repetition of dialog] and on a greater, structural level. It’s like getting two movies for the price of one, only they’re the same movie.
One way in which Labyrinth recycles is through the simple reuse of dialog. For one of many examples, take Jareth’s words right before he starts in on Dance Magic. He points to Toby: “A goblin babe!” The goblins stand, dumbfounded, unaware that it’s a joke. “Well? Laugh!” Jareth says. The goblins laugh. The very same scene comes up again when Jareth sees Sarah in the oubliette. “She’ll soon give up,” he predicts, “when she realizes she has to start all over again.” Silence from the peanut gallery. “Well?…” Jareth says. Laughter on cue. Yes, we know the goblins are stupider than Jareth. Yes, we know he finds them excruciatingly boring. We don’t even mind seeing this demonstrated more than once in the film. But what’s the point of using the exact same words?! Script writers got sloppy? I dunno.
I don’t know what annoys me more: the recurring dialog or the recurring adventures. Ever notice how many times Sarah has to choose between two doors? There are the Alph and Ralph doors and then the knockers. Ever notice how many times Sarah gets trapped in a creepy character’s song and has to escape by throwing things? First she meets the Fireys, who lure her into chillying down, but she frustrates them by tossing their heads. Then Jareth sings about romance to her in the bubble ball, but she escapes by throwing a chair through the bubble. And then there’s the fact that everyone falls everywhere. The falling makes a bit of thematic sense, at least for Sarah [getting deeper into things and all], but what about the other reused adventures?
I don’t get it. How can you have Brian Froud, Jim Henson, George Lucas [bleargh], David Bowie and Terry Jones working on the same movie and still have such a failure of imagination??! Maybe Brian Froud was concentrating on the costume design, while Jim Henson was tinkering with the Muppets, and George Lucas was counting up the number of archetypical themes. Meanwhile, David Bowie was busy showing his
pants talent to the best advantage, while Terry Jones was busy making jokes. And all the geniuses just plumb forgot about that pesky little thing known as plot. Labyrinth has so many brilliant people behind it, but would it have killed them to bring a Plot Genius on board as well?