A 2005 movie made by The Jim Henson Company, but done with mostly CG effects. Directed by acclaimed visual artist Dave Mc Kean, and it shows. Written by acclaimed author/comic book guy Neil Gaiman, and it also shows.Helena Campbell is a teenage girl who wants to leave her home at the circus to go and join real life. She gets into an argument with her mother, who then falls spontaneously ill with what is presumably a brain tumor. Helena blames herself, and dreams (maybe) that she travels to a magical world made entirely out of pictures she has drawn.The City of Light is being gradually destroyed because the White Queen (who bears a suspicious resemblance to her mother) has fallen ill and the Charm to wake her has been stolen by someone called the Dark Princess, daughter of the Dark Queen (who also bears a suspicious resemblance to Helena's mother). Accompanied by a bizarre Irish juggler named Valentine, Helena journeys from the White City to the Darklands to find the Charm and save both the White Queen and her mother.Deliberately made as a Spiritual Successor to Labyrinth, and like it, the film has gained a cult following, due largely to the massive fan bases of Gaiman and McKean.By the way, the circus isn't scary, nor is the clown.
This movie provides examples of:
Acting for Two: Stephanie Leonidas is Helena and the Dark Princess. Rob Brydon is Morris Campbell and the Prime Minister. Gina McKee is Joanne Campbell, the White Queen, and the Dark Queen. Jason Barry is Valentine and his equivalent in the human world.
Buffy Speak: At being asked to sneak, Valentine says, "I will slip unnoticeable through the darkness like a dark, unnoticeable slippy thing." A notable example in that he doesn't hesitate at any point in the sentence. That's what he meant to say.
Great Big Book of Everything: It's not especially big, but A Really Useful Book is full of plot-relative advice that lives up to its title. A Complete History of Everything could also qualify.
The Heartless: The Dark Queen is a reflection of the way Helena sees her mother when she's angry: selfish, uncaring, and pompous. By contrast, the Princess is everything Helena (implicitly) fears about becoming herself: spoiled, ungrateful, and greedy.
Hypocritical Humor: Mrs. Bagwell tells Helena to go wash her hands, wittering on about hygiene. But when Helena goes to wash her hands in Mrs. Bagwell's bathroom....it's the most disgusting place ever. Everything's got grime on it, there's no soap, no towel for Helena to dry her hands on (she just uses her shirt), and there is a sphinx in the toilet.
In the beginning of the movie, Helena's reasoning for not being dressed for the circus is because she looks like an idiot. Her mother replies that "No one looks like an idiot." Cue a girl with a beaked mask, rainbow skirt and stockings coming from behind. The mother tells her to leave.
Marquee Alter Ego: The Prime Minister of the White City, where everybody wears masks, has much more of his face visible than any of his citizens. This was originally because the plan was to cast somebody famous in the role as The Cameo, and they wanted the audience to be able to see who it was. The plan was to get David Bowie as a Labyrinth callback, but the scheduling didn't work.
Riddling Sphinx: Subverted. The classic Riddle of the Sphinx is delivered by an easily stumped griffin. There are sphinxes in the city, but they're implied to be less intelligent and more interested in eating books (and people) than solving riddles.
MirrorMask has its own Spiritual Successor in Coraline, where Gaiman revisits a few of these same themes - an alternate universe with an alternate, oppressively-affectionate mother figure who has strange, black eyes.
The Stinger: Gaiman and McKean considered running the credits after "It's over. She won," and then showing the real ending. But decided against it.
Strawman Political: The Dark Queen's advisers are parodies of British politicians on both sides.
Teens Are Monsters: Putting aside that she switched lives with Helena against Helena's will, the Dark Princess is a bitch. She's basically a reflection of everything wrong with Helena with none of her good traits.
The Tell: When Helena's father is trying to calm her about her mother's impending brain surgery, and unconsciously chews his lip, she blurts, "Anyway, you're worried. You only do that when you're worried!"
This Is My Side: A damn heroic one enforced by Helena when she finally confronts the Princess.
Winged Humanoid: The Monkeybirds, although they don't really have bird-like wings; they actually have skin-flaps that stretch from their arms to the sides of their bodies, and they don't really fly with them, just glide really well.