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Pan's Labyrinth

By Mitch Emerson

Starring: Maribel Verdu, Ivana Baquero, Sergi Lopez (II), Ariadna Gil, Alex Angulo
Directed By: Guillermo del Toro
Produced By: Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron, Bertha Navarro (II)
Genre: Art/Foreign, Science Fiction/Fantasy and Thriller
Release Date: January 19, 2007
MPAA Rating: R for graphic violence and some language.
Distributors: Picturehouse

Set in 1940s Spain against the postwar repression of Franco's Spain, a fairy tale that centers on Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a lonely and dreamy child living with her mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) and adoptive father, Vidal (Sergi Lopez), a military officer tasked with 'ridding the area' of rebels. In her loneliness, Ofelia creates a world filled with fantastical creatures and secret destinies. With Fascism at its height, Ofelia must come to terms with her world through a fable of her own creation. -Yahoo! Movies

Featuring stunning visuals, great performances and a story full of imagination and sadness, Pan's Labyrinth is another movie that has hit the ball right out of the park. Guillermo del Toro has created what many are touting "an adult fairy tale" and they would be right. This is not a kids movie, no matter how deceptive the trailers may be. There are a few really graphic scenes of violence that even made me shudder. That's the first warning. The second is that this movie is completely subtitled, which can make some movies difficult for some viewers to watch (my wife hates them). That being said we can move on.

The heart of this movie is Ofelia, played by Ivana Baquero. She is confronted with the brutal realities of life during a time of war and is also dealing with fantastical creatures and scary monsters and plays both sides with the same determination and innocence. Sergi Lopez's Captain Vidal is one of the most uncaring "villain" that I have seen in a while. He cares nothing of Ofelia and her mother, all he wants is the son she is carrying inside her.

In one of the sub plots, Mercedes, played with heart and gusto by Maribel Verdu, is a servant who is also helping the rebels and she seems to be the conscience of the film. The stand out performance has got to be Doug Jones as The Pale Man and Pan. He has a way with body language that is unbelievable. You have to see these two characters to know what I am talking about. If you have seen Hellboy, another of del Toro's films, Jones played Abe Sapien with fluid grace.

On a side note, Jones has been tapped to play the Silver Surfer in the upcoming Fantastic Four sequel Rise of the Silver Surfer. So keep your eyes open for that.

The last cast member I want to mention is the voice actor for Pan. I read in an interview with Jones that his voice was dubbed by someone else and I can't find any mention or credit anywhere. Whoever he was he did a damn fine job.

Now I have to mention the effects. The bad thing is that I can't go into too much detail without giving away some plot point and surprises. Let's just say that the fantasy elements are realized beautifully, blending in with reality where needed almost seamlessly. The graphic violence I mentioned earlier? Just brutal and in your face. Not glorified or over the top, just shown as straight forward and realistic as possible.

Final thoughts - Leave the kids at home, grab your Spanish speaking cousin and head to the theater for an adult fairy tale that will take you down the rabbit hole, mess with your mind and toss you back up into the brutal sunshine all before dinner.

Until Doug Jones and Andy Serkis makes a film together, keep reading.

Best Lines:

Ofelia: My name is Ofelia. Who are you?
Pan: Me? I've had so many names... Old names that only the wind and the trees can pronounce. I am the mountain, the forest and the earth. I am... I am a faun. Your most humble servant, Your Highness.

Captain Vidal: You could have obeyed me!
Doctor Ferreiro: [his last words] But captain, obey for obeys sake... That's something only people like you do.


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