This movie from Mexico with English subtitles features Ivana Baquero as Ofelia, a bookish girl well versed in Greek Mythology who will be soon living with her step father, Capitán Vidal (Sergi López). The stepfather is a soldier under Fascist leader Generalissimo Francisco Franco. El Capitán awaits the birth of his son through Ofelia's mother, Carmen (Ariadna Gil). The late stages of the pregnancy become problematic for this odd new family.
After observing some cruel behavior by her wicked stepfather, Ofelia retreats into her fantastical imagination. She is visited by bugs that transform into guardian angels who introduce the girl to a friendly faun (Doug Jones). The faun provides Ofelia with three tasks that she must perform to save the world.
Director/Writer Guillermo del Toro brings the audience to a world made familiar with viewing of the "Lord of the Rings," "The Chronicles of Narnia" and the "Harry Potter" movies. "Pan's Labyrinth" presents a different slice of this mythical universe. Del Toro's world is both beautiful and more horrific. Cinematographer Guillermo Navarro owes a dept of gratitude the artwork of Goya, in particular the "Sorcery and Witchcraft," "The Black Paintings" and the "Colossus" paintings. Del Toro manages to make bugs look pretty in this motion picture, yet it is the realty based horrors that horrify the audience, not the nightmarish monsters of a little girl's dream.
As Capitán Vidal, Sergi López is the best villain to come out of the cinematic year of 2006. A former romantic leading man, López uses his pretty boy villainy to perform cruel actions in the name of war. The man lost his soul many years before the events of the "Pan's Labyrinth," however the wicked stepfather still seeks redemption with the birth of his son. Maribel Verdú provides a foil to the wicked commander. A seductive Madonna figure from "Y Tu' Mama Tambien," Verdú is a warrior Madonna who acts as a housemaid to the villain.
As Ofelia, Ivana Baquero invites the audience into her own world of myth and magic. Through her, we believe the fantastical magic that helps transform a cruel world. "Pan's Labyrinth" may suffer from being too good for its own good, it is a truthful film that contains shocks and surprises. "Pan's Labyrinth" is also a rare movie with a subtle Christian message that pays off in the conclusion.
"Pan's Labyrinth" is a definite film to see on the big screen. While adhering to the academic disciplines of world mythology and childhood psychology, Guillermo del Toro managed to create an original and entertaining story that echoes the classical work of Goya, C.S. Lewis and Val Lewton.