"Uh, are you guys going to the movies?"
Nick, using the deductive powers accorded by the fine schools
of Jefferson County, figured out that people buying Raisinets
and Red Vines at a store right next to a movie theater on a
Friday night just might be going to see a movie.
Yes, we said. "Uh, what movie are you going to see?"
I wanted to say, "Just do your fucking job, punk, and sell
me my crap in peace." After all, if I wanted commentary, I would
have gone to K-Mart and listened to some speed-addled bonehag
tell me about her bunions. But I was with the Mrs., this was
technically a date, and I might get a little action later if
I end the night sober, with my pants not in a tree and without
getting my ass kicked by any teenagers.
So I said, "Pan's Labyrinth."
"Uhhhh, do you know what it's about?"
The Mrs. gave him an oral summary of her theses on the Spanish
Civil War and Magic Realism from the community college. He nodded
the way that uncomprehending teens do and then told us what
he thought of it.
For fuck's sake, why does every amateur, unqualified jackass
think he's a movie critic? They should leave it to people like
me: professional unqualified jackasses. To hell with
deporting migrant workers; let's deport these opinionated little
shits who want my job.
Nick's review was shoddy at best, and I expect more from teens
working at the Super Target. For half-assed I could go to the
regular old Target down the street. He's right, the Captain
is an asshole, but I disagree about rooting for the little girl.
If you can't root for her, who can you? And there's maybe just
a little more subtext than Nick revealed or grasped.
Pan's Labyrinth is by Guillermo del Toro, a director
who just loves gory stuff, and he puts a shitload of it in this
fantastical adventure story. After the Civil War, a young girl
(Ivana Baquero) is forced to move to a remote Spanish outpost
with her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil). The mother has married
a brutal captain (Sergi LŪpez) under Franco who is very much
enjoying rooting out the remaining guerrillas fighting for communism.
The girl's father has died, and the mother has married and been
impregnated by the Captain in order to have a roof over their
As Nick said, the Captain is an asshole. I stopped counting
the number of people he remorselessly kills or tortures at around
712. He kills farmers, people he doesn't trust and the guerrillas,
all with about as much emotion as a Coco's waitress bringing
As Gil gets sicker, Baquero retreats into a fantasy world of
fairies, fauns and fantasy adventures that test her goodness
and strength. Beyond LŪpez's keep is an ancient stone labyrinth
that she explores. There, she meets Pan, a decrepit, vaguely
sinister faun who tells her a tale in which she is a princess
who must complete three tasks to restore her immortality and
protect her family
In the real world, Baquero feels unwanted by LŪpez, who is
only interested in his unborn son and killing commies. She isn't
sure she is a good daughter, or even a good person. And she
is confused by loyalties and who is right or wrong in the Civil
War. She feels helpless.
In the fantasy world, however, she is in complete control.
Pan's challenges are the sort of fantastical things a literate
girl would imagine, involving giant, barfing toads, magic keys,
living mandrake roots and a CHUD with eyes in the palms of his
hands who eats babies like he's straight out of a Goya painting.
del Toro has an amazing imagination and can concoct scenarios
that would make the Harelip jealous. God knows, she makes up
some whoppers to explain where she's been, why the government
put a tiny microphone in her tooth or how the cops framed her
on a meth charge. The underground scenes of Pan's Labyrinth
and the imaginary creatures are technically adept, but more
importantly, haunting and slightly sinister. Pan's intentions
and virtue aren't clear until the end.
The real world, though, is a little tougher on del Toro. The
movie is so fucking grim and violent that some of the subtext
gets buried under the blood that flows during torture scenes,
or when a man's leg is amputated, or during multiple shootouts
that kill dozens. I can understand that he wants to show how
downright shitty the Spanish Civil War was, and how it tore
a country apart. But the violence is a bit much and it's lingered
over like the last biscuit in the warmer at Country Buffet.
del Toro doesn't get too deep into the politics of who he thinks
was right and wrong in the War, probably because it's not that
easy to assign blame. He seems to be more sympathetic to the
guerrillas, though, and portrays them rather simplistically.
When they kill, apparently it is not as brutal. To me, though,
death is pretty brutal no matter how it comes. Anyone soaked
in another's blood has lost some virtue, and also needs a good
acidic soap and a loofah.
I'm also not convinced that the twining of the two stories
is that seamless. Yes, a war is a great time to show how a young
girl can be stripped of her innocence and be lost in a maze
of loyalties and challenges. But, the movie feels a lot like
two movies that are smushed together rather than organically
connected: one's a great fantasy, the other's a mediocre war
I don't know where Nick would rate this one. He'd probably
give it about two or three out of five break-time cinnamon pretzels
and Blue Raspberry Icees from the snack bar. Me, I'm giving
it Four Fingers, but I cant wait to get my preview for
next week's movie from the cashier at Super Target.