By Mandi Bierly
Updated January 19, 2007 at 08:32 PM EST

It’s an odd thing: reading (and frankly, writing) reviews of bad movies is most often more entertaining than reading reviews of good ones. But it’s a treat to see how much fun critics are having hailing Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, which expands into wider release today.

Of course, no one does it more effusively than Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers: “To hail Pan’s Labyrinth for its visionary ravishments is hardly to do it justice. You leave del Toro’s one-of-a-kind film feeling you’ve never seen the world before, not like this, not with such aching beauty and terror in the service of obliterating barriers of time, place, genre, and language.”

Well, except for The New York Times‘ A.O. Scott, who does it with a bit more weight (and a better vocabulary): “Like his friend and colleague Alfonso Cuarón, whose astonishing Children of Men opened earlier this week, Mr. del Toro is helping to make the boundary separating pop from art, always suspect, seem utterly obsolete. Pan’s Labyrinth is a swift and accessible entertainment, blunt in its power and exquisite in its effects. A child could grasp its moral insights (though it is not a film I’d recommend for most children), while all but the most cynical of adults are likely to find themselves troubled to the point of heartbreak by its dark, rich, and emphatic emotions.”

addCredit(“Pan’s Labyrinth: Teresa Isasi”)

Zertinet Movies‘Steven Synder, who says the same thing in a simple, poetic tone: “It’sa nightmare, a daydream and a solemn prayer all at once. In an age ofmovies that are often about one thing and one thing only, here’s amovie open to the possibilities of what these people, in this place andat this time, can say about us all.”

The BBC‘sJonathan Trout, who does an exceptional job at following the first ruleof reviews (people should know whether you loved or hated it from yourfirst graph): “Dark, dreamlike and dangerous, Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinthis a fairytale every bit as scary and moving as they were always meantto be. In both the real world — civil war-riven Spain — and thefantasy underworld she discovers, our heroine Ofelia must battleagainst the most twisted, nightmarish evils to survive. Transcendent,passionate, full of beauty, and endlessly affecting, this is withoutquestion the movie of the year.”

And, of course, EW‘sown Lisa Schwarzbaum: “This is a tale within a tale within a tale, achameleon creation in which the actual and the symbolic intermingle sointuitively that we’re happy to divest ourselves of logic — to go withthe flow suggested by the movie’s lulling, lingering seven-note musicaltheme…. Rated R, for some graphic, blood-spattering violence, Pan’s Labyrinthmay for now be off-limits to the very viewers to whom the story is sorespectfully dedicated. Fair enough, so long as one day soon they’regranted admission to enter del Toro’s magic kingdom, where adults cangasp at a filmmaker’s magic.”