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OPENS DEC. 27

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In the context of Hollywood, “magic” is generally a word to be feared; it usually means something hopelessly cornball and secondhand but lighted artistically or shot through diffusion lenses. It can be argued that nothing Jim Henson ever did was more magical than getting Kermit to ride a bicycle, but the director and his puppeteer corps did a fine job of populating their two PG-rated exercises in fantasy. Scripted by Monty Python’s Terry Jones, 1986’s Labyrinth is the sharper of the two, and a narrative second cousin to Terry Gilliam’s sublime Time Bandits. Teenage Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) ditches her little brother, only to realize that she’s sent him into the clutches of Jareth the Goblin King (David Bowie in the shaggiest shag ever). So Sarah must enter the Labyrinth and cross the Bog of Eternal Stench to rescue her sib, facing down Jareth and a mess of goblins (pictured) who are meaner than Fox News hosts. Henson and Frank Oz (who was to later have a substantial career directing movies starring nonpuppets) took a joint credit for 1982’s The Dark Crystal, a humanless excursion into a world J.R.R. Tolkien just might have recognized. The story, involving a hero’s quest to save his land from rampaging occupiers, is routine, but the creatures are magical. The series opens Tuesday, Dec. 27, and runs through Thursday, Jan. 5 (see Showtimes for a weekly schedule), at the AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. (301) 495-6700. $9.25. (Mark Jenkins)