Dave, an artist who has yet to complete anything significant in his career, builds a fort in his living room out of pure frustration, only to wind up trapped by the fantastical pitfalls, booby traps, and critters of his own creation.
Directed by Bill Watterson and written by Watterson and Steven Sears, Dave Made a Maze is easily the most inventive film of 2017 so far. A zany, Goonies-style adventure that forces you to suspend your disbelief and enter a mindset of gleeful imagination actually has a lot on its mind. Maze turns out to be an exploration of the artist and his relationship with his creation, and consequently, the relationship the creation has with those who experience it. But really, this movie is fun plain and simple.
The film opens on Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) who returns to her apartment after a weekend trip to find that her boyfriend, Dave (Nick Thune) has constructed a cardboard labyrinth in their living room. Nonplussed, Annie lumbers in with her luggage calling out to Dave only to hear his voice coming from inside the living room edifice. It soon becomes clear that Dave is literally trapped in his own creation with no real way out. Annie threatens to come in after him to which Dave begs her to stay out, explaining that the maze isn’t done yet.
“…this is some wildly inventive stuff.”
Hours go by and soon all of Dave and Annie’s friends are in their living room including best friend Gordon (Adam Busch), documentarian friend Harry (James Urbaniak) along with a camera and sound crew, and effervescent friend Jane (Kirsten Vangsness) in an entirely too short part. The supportive crowd can’t take it any longer and they decide to enter Dave’s maze to pull him out. What the soon find out is that the maze is a spatially boundless realm that defies the natural laws of physics. Soon the search crew is lost in Dave’s fantastic creation and just as lost as he.
Of course this is a labyrinth which means that there are potentially booby traps around every corner, and creatures that protect the center of the maze. Most notable among them is a The Minotaur (John Hennigan) that haunts the cardboard halls in search of victims.
What makes the film work is how it taps into that childlike wonder that we all have buried deep down inside of us. The production design by Trisha Gum and John Sumner with art direction by Jeff White is simply a marvel. Every single item inside the maze is sculpted and constructed from cardboard and construction paper. Oh wait, there is a curtain made of playing cards. But everything is paper. In fact at one point, after going through a portal, the characters themselves become paper puppets. Trying to stay spoiler-free here but dammit this is some wildly inventive stuff. Oscar worthy for sure.
“…taps into that childlike wonder that we all have buried deep down inside of us.”
Of course, things soon turn dark as Dave’s creation begins to pick its guests off one by one in wickedly funny ways. As the group attempts to leave, Dave’s maze is not interested in separating with its creator without a fight. There is a real thoughtful meditation on what an artist goes through in turning over his creations to an audience and how, in reality, the artist can only sit and watch, sometimes in horror, as his art is experienced by others. Yes, heady shit, but director Bill Watterson keeps things so “80’s adventure comedy” that the metaphor can easily be lost in favor of the fun.
Dave Made a Maze left a smile on my face that stayed there long after we left the fort. This was an homage to limitless imagination and the fanatical care creators of art take in their work that is wrapped up in a whimsical, craft paper package. Endearing, hilarious, imaginative, and above all fun, Dave Made a Maze is something to get lost in.
Dave Made a Maze (2017) Directed by: Bill Watterson Written by: Steven Sears, Bill Watterson Staring: Nick Thune, Meera Rohit Kumbhani, Adam Busch, James Urbaniak, Kirsten Vangsness
Dave Made a Maze is worth Full Price (****).
Norm’s Rating System: Full Price (****), Matinee (***), VOD (**), Don’t Bother (*)