Short Summary: In the midst of the Spanish Civil War, a young girl discovers that she is the reincarnation of the princess of the underworld and must prove that her essence is intact whilst dealing with her evil stepfather and sick mother.
When it comes to awesome set pieces, cool-looking creatures, and good movies in general, Guillermo Del Toro is your man. Even when he’s delving into territory that I’m not exactly all that interested in – Pacific Rim for instance – he manages to get me in thanks to that huge monster that happens to be a part of the story.
The same is true for Pan’s Labyrinth. At its core, it’s a story about a girl who wants to escape reality because the war is harsh on her mother and her stepfather is a giant annoying boring douchebag who kills people for no good reason. Yawn. Go talk to Joey or someone else who prefers grand hopeful stories over exploitative monster action if you want that kind of story to be praised. And yet, I still consider Pan’s Labyrinth to be a good movie. Because the other core of the story, the “adult Alice in Wonderland” stuff, is pretty damn awesome, even if doesn’t have as much screen time as the whole Spanish Civil War stuff, and it serves as a good entry point to care for Ofelia’s plight in the real world enough that I find it mildly interesting. Kind of like how the Joker was the sole reason most superhero haters get into The Dark Knight.
If the movie had focused more on the fantasy side of things and less on the whole “human element”, Pan’s Labyrinth would probably be amongst my top 5 films of 2006. It wouldn’t be my favorite like it was for Roger Ebert, but then again I don’t think he ever saw Tekkonkinkreet.