DVD Review: Pan's Labyrinth

New Line
Movie •••• Picture ••••½ Sound ••••½ Extras ••••
In one of the finest films of 2006, director Guillermo del Toro masterfully blends a dark fairy tale of a young girl in the underworld and a darker, more violent story set in Fascist Spain. Since the girl's stepfather is a wicked military commander, the two realities amplify each other and create a new sort of cinematic experience.

The two-disc set of Pan's Labyrinth is simply wonderful. Its glorious transfer has rich colors, beautifully contrasted lighting, and lots of fine detail, even in the many gloomy forest scenes. The 6.1-channel DTS-ES mix doesn't surround you so much as physically envelop you with atmospheric music and effects. The flutter of fairies' wings and the rustle of leaves in the surround channels are all distinct and really something to hear. The Dolby Digital EX track is almost as good, if not as subtle.

Among the set's extras, the director's commentary offers about as much information on the movie as I could absorb. It's a little light on the technical side - but the second disc's entertaining (if short) documentary on the makeup and the visual effects compensates for that. The two other featurettes here are less interesting, but you'll have more luck with Del Toro's 45-minute appearance on the Charlie Rose show as well as with the PC DVD-ROM galleries and screenplay.

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