Pan's Labyrinth Guillermo Del Toro

Critics have been falling all over themselves praising this violent fantasy, but not me. Its fascist atrocities aside, Pan’s Labyrinth is straight out of the fairytale playbook with no real surprises beyond a couple of nice design elements.

Set in the waning days of WWII, the film depicts the odyssey of a Spanish girl named Ofelia, who’s sent with her pregnant mother to live with her new fascist stepfather in the midst of a great forest. Little does she know that she’s actually the reincarnation of a long lost princess until, of course, she’s approached by fairies and led to a crazy looking faun in the midst of an abandoned labyrinth. Thus Ofelia must win her way back into the fantastic fold while juggling her brutal stepfather and protecting her critically-ill mother.

Those aforementioned critics have found all sorts of redemptive significance to the film’s goings on, apparently suckered in by the violence and the extremely limp references to a caricatured history. Don’t be fooled — for the most part, the movie completely fails to link the horror of the real world and the "archetypes” of the fantasy world. They’re mostly ships that pass in the night, making it impossible for the film to develop a thesis about their interaction. And there’s nothing political about its broadly drawn fascists, the leader of which is every bit as fantastic a monster as anything that crawls out of the labyrinth.

Mostly, I was bored stiff, and though one well-crafted sequence with a rather hungry monster has its strong points, the movie for the most part is bland and inconsequential. I’d love to see the movie the critics thought they were seeing, but this isn’t the one.

(Alliance Atlantis)