Reel Reviews | Pan’s Labyrinth

by Tim Gordon

I watched the trailer for Mexican director Guillermo del Toro’s latest film, Pan’s Labyrinth and I was excited but cautious. Time after time, trailers have sucked me in only to disappoint because they don’t deliver. I call that phenomenon “Good Guys Wear Black, But the Film is Wack.”

Many years ago as a young teen I went to see Chuck Norris in Good Guys Wear Black. The trailer had wonderful scenes of a car trying to run Chuck over, but he jumps up and through the windshield of a moving car. Cool as s**t, but when we paid to see the film, my favorite three scenes from the trailer were in the movie . . . and nothing else. Since that time I’m always wary of trailers that are too good to be true, I don’t want to hurt again!

Fast forward to Pan’s Labyrinth, which was advertised as “an adult fairytale.” The adult fairytale I saw, M. Night Shyamalan was trying to pass off “Lady in the Water and that was not sexy. The film came across as self-serving and just plain dumb (for the record, I liked the film initially, but the second viewing convinced me that sometimes first impressions aren’t lasting).

Thank goodness for me, my belief in film is momentarily restored. This story of a 12-year-old girl who is traveling with her pregnant mother in 1944 postwar Spain sizzles with vibrant colors, haunting film score and terrific performances from Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), the sadistic Captain Vidal (brilliant Sergi López) and Mercedes (Maribel Verdú). Heaven help you if you see López in a dark alley; that’s one scary, uncaring dude! The film is everything that Lady in the Water was not, creating a clever fantasy world fit for a princess.

At times the film has brutal scenes that are hard to watch, but the payoff is worth it for del Toro’s creatively powerful vision. This is the Spanish director’s sixth film and it’s clear that he has used his previous experiences to craft an incredibly fine film.

I know that this film won’t play in a multiplex near you and you’ll have to find it; just think of yourself on the same kind of journey that young Ofelia has and think of the wonderful payoff that awaits you for your trouble.