(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)
Why I added it to my queue: Because this is the latest classic from my childhood to be made available through Netflix Streaming, which inspired me to watch it for the first time in decades, when otherwise I probably wouldn't have bothered adding it to my DVD queue. Thanks, Netflix!
The reality: Oh, so much more entertaining than when I first watched it at the age of thirteen. Because back then, of course, it was easy to concentrate on all the little ways this puppet-based fantasy film is lacking, especially when compared to the juggernaut E.T. which came out that same summer, and especially given all the advance hype -- after all, this was the first non-Muppet film by the Jim Henson Company, which like Disney at the time was struggling to break into a more mature market, an infamous five-year labor of love for respected fantasy artist Brian Froud, who personally oversaw nearly every single detail of this entire production (and met his future wife on-set to boot), billed at the time as the first ever live-action film to not feature a single human being. But now, of course, 28 years later the movie seems almost revelatory in its complete lack of computer effects, and the charming lo-fi nature of all those rod-and-glove-controlled puppets; and really, charming and nostalgic is always the best filter by which to view Jim Henson projects, in that no matter how serious he would attempt to get in any particular movie, there was always something silly and amusing about them anyway (a balance he was to strike in a much better way in his next film for older audiences, 1986's still surprisingly great Labyrinth). Although by no means perfect, this is still a great choice for older adolescents and their creative-class parents; and with its decades-in-development sequel apparently finally a reality (it comes out in 2011! It's full of CGI! It's being filmed in 3D! Of course it is!), now is as good a time as any to revisit this quietly effective sleeper hit.
Strangest piece of trivia: For sixteen years after its release, this was the highest-grossing foreign film in Japanese history, until finally being supplanted by Titanic.
Worth your time? The shard! The shard!