Genre: Adventure and Horror Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 20 min.
Release Date: April 8th, 2017 MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Bill Watterson Actors: Nick Thune, Meera Rohit Kumbhani, James Urbaniak, Adam Busch, Scott Krinsky, Stephanie Allynne, Frank Caeti, Timothy Nordwind, Kirsten Vangsness
hile clearly an allegory for the oftentimes extreme hardships and sacrifices experienced during an artist’s creative process, “Dave Made a Maze” opts for an acutely fantastical take on the subject, offering both moments of intriguing introspection and wicked silliness. The enigmatic inserts that represent the more serious aspects of Dave’s relationships provide thought-provoking escapes from the goofy humor, but the film shines brightest when the lowbrow gags mingle with the highly creative environments. When “Dave Made a Maze” excessively reiterates the same points or steps into darker territory, the brisk pacing begins to wane, but it’s soon reinvigorated by zany commentary and an abundance of wacky characters that are anything but cardboard.
When Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) returns home after a weekend away, she discovers her boyfriend Dave (Nick Thune) squirreled away inside an enormous cardboard maze constructed in the living room of their apartment. “It’s much bigger on the inside,” insists his voice, echoing up from somewhere deep within. Annie’s initial questioning returns evidence that Dave is lost inside his own creation, so it’s not long before friends, neighbors, visiting tourists, and even a documentary film crew have gathered to witness the seemingly impossible situation. Determined to rescue Dave from his papery prison, Annie forms a search party and enters the labyrinth, only to realize that her mission won’t be nearly as easy as she thought. Populated with countless booby traps and a bloodthirsty minotaur, the treacherous network of passageways holds untold dangers for Annie and her motley band of investigators.
“Dave Made a Maze” is utterly brimming with creativity. But the most admirable components of this endlessly innovative comic thriller are its appearance and execution, which never betray its budgetary constraints. This is the kind of movie that could have been made on a shoestring budget or for several million dollars; the ideas themselves are so original and effective that the visuals simply don’t have to be all that polished. In fact, the sequences that leave most of the happenings up to the imagination prove to be more memorable than when details are provided in abundance.
The opening titles, which employ an animation style reserved solely for this preface, are indicative of the multitude of clever concepts that change up the narrative for what is already a wholly singular plot. It’s here that audiences see the name of the production company as “Dave Made an LLC” – the brand of humor most prevalent in the coming imagery. Obstacles and booby traps are designed for laughs rather than shrieks, while cardboard refuse and origami and yarn become the ingredients for a parody of slasher films – all while a subsection of the characters turn the rescue operation into a satirization of documentary filmmaking. The tropes are intentional and the exaggerations of an interviewer (and a cinematographer and sound guy) aim to mock the seriousness conjured from the most ludicrous of scenarios. It’s at once a Kaufman-esque scrutinization of self-worth and perseverance; a low-budget realization of psychosomatic manifestations (and rationalizations), like something out of Hitchcock’s “Spellbound”; and a spoof of horror films in the vein of the “Saw” franchise – while also squeezing in unoriginal yet amusing tricks of perspective and the largely unseen monster stalker of films like “Halloween.” It may have a disappointing timeline construction (starting in the middle only to circle back to the beginning) and a slightly plodding start, but it more than makes up for this with continually unpredictable gags and a hysterical adherence to the rules of cardboard forts and labyrinths.
– The Massie Twins