Terry Jones (Story: Dennis Lee, Jim Henson)
David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly, Toby Froud, Shelley Thompson, Christopher Malcolm, Shari Weiser, Brian Henson, Ron Mueck, Rob Mills, Dave Goelz, David Alan Barclay, David Shaughnessy, Frank Oz
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There is no one alive today who has not felt the influence of the Muppets either through Sesame Street or the two incarnations of the Muppets variety show. Jim Henson parlayed his puppet creativity into a long career cut short by pneumonia in 1990. Before he died, he left an amazing legacy of television creations that was muted somewhat by his film work. More at home on the small screen, Henson made only a handful of live action films including the 1986 fantasy adventure Labyrinth.
The film is about a spoiled, selfish young girl (Jennifer Connelly) whose crying infant brother causes her to wish him away to the land of the goblins. Yet, after his disappearance, she realizes the error of her impetuousness and goes on an adventure to save him. Trying to thwart her at every turn is the malefic Goblin King played by rock star David Bowie. Filled with his trademark puppet characters, Henson created a dingy, color-starved world of fantasy where his young heroine could seek redemption. Connelly’s performance is nothing special, Fairuza Balk had already done better in the prior year’s Return to Oz. Bowie was rather a shocking fit for the production, though his musical compositions aren’t that exciting and often provide more of a distraction than an assistance.
Henson’s sense of humor was playfully at work here, even if some of the jokes seem dated by comparison. His world is visually involving and some of his puppetry is quite impressive, but the film is a trifle of entertainment that doesn’t compare well with the creative blockbusters of the era. It’s a decent way to spend an afternoon, but viewing it with your children will be more rewarding than watching it by yourself.
January 24, 2011