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'Dave Made A Maze' re-imagines classic 80's adventure films with a modern comedic edge and a higher body count. 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. Ignoring his warnings, Dave's girlfriend Annie leads a band of oddball explorers on a rescue mission. The handmade fantasy world comes to life with puppetry, stop-motion animation, and in-camera optical illusions, re-igniting the tactile sense of wonder from the movies of our childhoods.
Where's that beard at!
The beard's on my face!
I said where's that beard at!
I said the beard's on my face!
What you say?
I said the beard's on my face!
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Written by Tandemoro
Performed by Tandemoro See more »
A Self-Absorbed Artist Gets Absorbed by His Creation
In his seminal book Making Movies, Sidney Lumet states that "all good work requires self-revelation." Taking this to heart, the makers of Dave Made a Maze have created what amounts to a contemplative amuse-bouche. In a word it is delightful – a DYI homage to magical realism that is sure to impress the nominally curious and the casually astute. Furthermore it approaches its absurdist tale with the proper irreverence, at least to a point. It's fun, a lot of fun. Yet much like any hor d'oeuvre it's not a full meal.
The movie starts with much of the same flourishes expected of a Luis Bunuel film. Annie (Kumbhani), the long suffering girlfriend of a "tortured artist," comes home to find Dave (Thune) has built a labyrinth out of cardboard in their apartment. Dave has apparently gotten lost in his own creation, thus after a gaggle of friends come over to inspect his work in progress, they enter the maze and find themselves at the mercy of impossibly expansive corridors, elaborate booby-traps, and cutesy creatures made of paper.
To say that Dave Made a Maze is a pastiche of a pastiche wouldn't even begin to explain the film's wild imagination. Hidden underneath Alice in Wonderland-like decor are clever references and callbacks of everything from Greek mythology to 80's fantasy adventure films to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) to even obscure Hal Hartley movies. Director Bill Watterson takes this jumble of influences and hot glues it all together with a keen eye, which is always furthering the central theme. He even goes so far as to create elaborate visual metaphors in everything from playing cards and geek culture t-shirts to capture the trappings and growing frustrations of the millennial set.
Yet while Bill Watterson and Art Director Jeff White are clearly the stylists here, everyone including the nonplus actors, wind up feeling like nothing more than set decorations. Aiding in the rescue effort is the impossibly droll Harry (Urbaniak) and his skeleton crew of documentary filmmakers. They along with Dave's best friend Gordon (Busch) naturally provide the largest belly laughs and the most urbane quips. But the script also provides them with the largest shield of constant eye-rolling detachment. A detachment that extends to the entire cast in fact, since everyone is walking around the magical maze like they're characters from Mission Hill (1999-2002). But in Harry's case he's got a literal camera crew guaranteeing he'll be drowning in bathos before he'll be getting killed by a smoke-breathing cardboard Minotaur.
Since no one approaches anything with any sense of peril, audiences are forced to downshift to viewing the film as a nifty little parable with – and I can't state this enough – truly imaginative filigree. Of course those looking to challenge themselves intellectually will once again be disappointed as the said parable is about as obvious as a Jesus metaphor in a Superman movie. Though in Dave Made a Maze's defense, the structure of myths and legends, for which this movie takes a lot of its story elements, do have the same sense of clarity. Additionally since we're seeing things largely from Annie's point-of-view, the film subtly adds a new dimension to the process, however slight. One can't help but wonder if there was just one more tweak, one more re-write, Dave Made a Maze could have been a subversive assault on the trope of the sulking, self-involved, misunderstood artist.
But because we're set in the well established mold of self-revelation, and because we're surrounded by insufferable characters who are always above-it-all, Dave Made a Maze ends up being just as slight and disposable as a brown paper bag. Watch it if for no other reason than to get on the ground floor of a uniquely talented director's career. Otherwise I say skip it.
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