Directed by Guillermo del Toro.
Written by Guillermo del Toro.
Starring Ivana Baquero, Sergi Lopez, Maribel Verdu and Ariadna
Release Year: 2006
Review Date: 1/11/07
It took about an hour and a half to get from
my spot in Bethesda to the theater in Georgetown where the freebie
of "Pan's Labyrinth" was playing tonight; needless to say, thanks to
traffic and somebody else's stupid driving, I was not in a good mood
when I got to the movie.
But, all of that changed as soon as the
house lights went down; "Pan's Labyrinth" is a great, great film,
and what surprised me was how it was great, because its
fantasy elements take up surprisingly little of the film's running
In Spain around the end of World War II,
Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil)
are heading to an encampment where evil Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez)
awaits. Why are they en route to this monster's den?
Because Vidal is apparently the father of that baby Carmen is
carrying around, and in attempting to keep an heir Vidal has decided
to keep Carmen in his clutches until she delivers the baby.
Ofelia--the daughter of another man, who passed away before the
movie's timeline opens--soon discovers another world living in
secret near the base camp, as she follows a fairy grasshopper (or
something) into its lair and meets Pan (Doug Jones), a
half-man/half-tree/quarter-horse/all-whack-job who befriends Ofelia
and gives her three tasks to keep her busy, all of which put her in
serious danger in order to confirm her Highness's place of royalty
for the underground kingdom. While all of this is happening,
Vidal has enemies in the real world to deal with--rebels are
threatening to take the base camp and eliminate Vidal and all of his
"Pan's Labyrinth" is very easy to keep up
with, and its fantasy elements are fun to follow thanks to the
ceaseless visual energy of director Guillermo del Toro, who came up
with some great sights in
"Blade II" and
Also, much like "Blade II", "Pan's Labyrinth" is a very, very bloody
film, which is a strange mix with the fantasy subject matter for
that portion of the movie. I mean, we're talking torture
sequences, amputations, lots of gunshots to the head, massive
amounts of bleeding...I was fine with this, but I could tell by the
time that people started to get cut open (war IS hell) that my
audience was not always sittin' pretty. This is mostly to make
sure you know what you are getting into, because only about a third
of "Pan's Labyrinth" is about the girl and her little fantasy world;
mainly, it's about having a place to go to when the shit hits the
fan, as Ofelia suffers through watching her mother be in pain and
Vidal kill innocents non-stop.
But, the way the film is performed is
fantastic; the turns by Baquero and Lopez are fantastic, and Maribel
Verdu--the woman from
Mama Tambien"--is interesting as the lead housemaid for Vidal's
base camp. The rebels have that right look of down-and-dirty
desperation; you really feel for them as the tide rolls from one end
to the other. The violence here is effective; at times, it's a
bit gratuitous, but then you wonder how bad people got it in WWII
and some of this doesn't feel that gratuitous after all. The
cinematography is excellent and I didn't mind having to sit through
subtitles as much of the action is driven with little or no
"Pan's Labyrinth" will be a player come
awards soon, as it has already taken home a number of domestic
prizes. What will Oscar say?
Rating: Opening Weekend
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard