In 1944 Spain, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) must complete three unusual tasks given to her by a faun. Meanwhile, Ofelia and her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) suffer under the powerful hand of Ofelia's stepfather, a brutally violent army captain (Sergi Lopez). The film is written and directed by Guillermo Del Toro ("Hellboy").
Big question: Is this a full-fledged fantasy or a story of the echoes of war through a family?
Catch it: The foundation of a young girl avoiding her miserable life is pretty basic, but "Pan's Labyrinth" can also be a magical opportunity to enjoy the wonders that lurk in a child's mind. This land exists somewhere between Narnia and "The Legend of Zelda," and it's an escape from everyday dreariness of which you'll want more than the film will offer.
Skip it: If you don't want to see a giant toad burp so strongly that it jumps out of its skin. Please don't try this at home.
Bottom line: A lot of "Pan's Labyrinth" threatens to thrill but mostly keeps us anxiously waiting to finish with real stuff and return to the fantasy. Yet while the different sections of the film don't mesh, it's all beautifully shot and well acted, and two creepy and great-looking sequences make "Pan's Labyrinth" worth seeing on visual splendor alone.
Bonus: Think you have no willpower for your favorite foods? Consider if you could resist eating forbidden fruit if you knew it would bring on the wrath of a creature with eyes on its hands. Did Adam and Eve teach us nothing?
Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.
Directed and written by Guillermo del Toro; photographed by Guillermo Navarro; edited by Bernat Vilaplana; production designed by Eugenio Caballero; music by Javier Navarrete; produced by Alvaro Augustin, Alfonso Cuaron, Bertha Navarro, Frida Torresblanco. (In Spanish, with English subtitles.) A Picturehouse release; opens Friday in Landmark's Century Centre Cinema, the AMC River East 21 and the Evanston 18. Running time: 1:52. MPAA rating: R (for graphic violence and some language).
Ofelia - Ivana Baquero
Vidal - Sergi Lopez
Mercedes - Maribel Verdu
Carmen - Ariadna Gil
Pan/Pale Man - Doug Jones
Dr. Ferreiro - Alex Angulo
King - Federico LuppiCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times