Released Aug. 18, 2017
Unrated (Possibly PG-13 for cartoonish violence, suggestive themes, and language) – 1hr 20min
Directed by Bill Watterson
Starring Meera Rohit Kumbhani, Nick Thune, James Urbaniak, Adam Busch
When Annie (Kumbhani) returns home from a business trip, she finds that her shiftless boyfriend Dave (Thune) has built a massive cardboard fort in the middle of their living room. Worse yet, he’s lost inside and claims that it is incredibly dangerous to enter. Skeptically, she assembles a gathering of his oddball hipster friends and ventures inside, only to find a labyrinth of impossible dimensions and lethal threats.
Dave Made a Maze is, first and foremost, a quirky indie comedy – an adventure romp for folks who brew their own homemade kombucha. It has horror elements akin to the rather fantastic 1997 film Cube and a fearsome Minotaur stalking the interior, creating some moments of genuine menace, but the premise is mostly played for laughs. For instance, when anyone dies in the maze, the gore and grue is substituted with confetti, silly string, and paper maché.
Visually, Dave Made a Maze is something of a masterpiece – a veritable epic of arts and crafts. The lo-fi set design is amazing – it’s a rare genre effort where the real heroes are the production designers and art department. I can’t rave enough about how awesome this movie looks and ingenious the premise is, providing ample opportunities for perpetually amusing settings.
It’s a shame the filmmakers couldn’t populate it with anyone I gave much of a damn about though. Each of the individual characters, in and of themselves, aren’t particularly awful, but the dynamic between them all, as the movie progresses, is something of a chore to bear. Whether it’s wishy-washy Dave with his selfish directionless ambitions, wishy-washy Annie begrudgingly dragging her manchild partner behind her through life with no real plan in mind, wishy-washy Gordon who is basically another manifestation of his best friend wishy-washy Dave, irritatingly self-serious unaccomplished documentary filmmaker Harry (at least he isn’t wishy-washy) or one of the hopelessly quirky and chattery pieces of cannon fodder, the interplay between them makes the lean 80-minute film something of a slog. They somehow manage to suck the joy out of their gleefully malicious surroundings when given enough time to speak.
Ultimately, Dave Made a Maze appears to be something of an allegorical statement on a niche of millennial culture – one where people were raised to believe in themselves and that they can do whatever they want, except they don’t know themselves and can’t do whatever they want, so they harbor a deep dissatisfaction with life along with an unwillingness for practical compromise and investments of manic energy into pointless pursuits. Or, that was my read on a bunch of frustrating characters who inadvertently forward that notion. I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to the film, because I loved the look of it so much, and say that it aimed high and achieves most of its goals, but could’ve benefited greatly to some more energy placed into stronger character development. Not giving a shit whether they lived or died did not compliment the story well.
Dave Made a Maze gets a