Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the inventive comedy DAVE MADE A MAZE by writer/director Bill Watterson. To best describe the story, I will turn to the IMDB plot summary:
“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.”
Occasionally a feature comes along that wows me with its creativity. Rarely do I see films that create such finely tuned worlds that also imbue these settings with a good story. Past examples of this are movies like WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (1988), ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004), or PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006) which put just as much heart into their designs as they did into their plot.
I know, those are big names to rattle off, and, if I am being honest, at first I did not feel that way about this picture. The beginning, while amusing, tended more towards silly comedy than anything truly inventive. In a way, this was the right move as it lulled me into thinking I had some idea of what I was about to watch before things really picked up steam. As soon as the main characters entered the maze, I found the humor to kick up a notch as their joking sensibilities met the reality of the possibly deadly cardboard labyrinth.
The look of the maze itself is a thing of absolute beauty as it combines the mundane aspects of cardboard with some truly inventive designs. From the visually pleasing keyboard room to watching the various traps spring into action, there was so much creativity here that it made cardboard actually seem fun. Each room within the maze had its own specific look and themes that made it a joy to watch them stumble from one area to the next as it left us eagerly anticipating the next visual flourish.
The eye candy is not confined to just the sets, though, there are plenty of other visual touches within the movie. One particular room managed to deconstruct everything we thought we were looking at just through forced perspectives and camera tricks. There are a few other wonderful surprises not involving the sets themselves, but to tell any more would give away the joy of self-discovery.
As far as the acting goes, the characters are memorable mostly for being kind of crazy, with just enough grounding to make them likeable. Striking this sort of balance is incredibly important in a film like this where we are constantly being presented with a new flight of fancy. Whether it be marveling over a living origami crane or running in horror from a cardboard Minotaur, our leads had the chops to handle whatever was thrown their way and take the tonal shifts in stride.
When it comes to the tone and plot itself, I think the best equivalency I can make is that it falls somewhere along the lines of those classic eighties family movies, but for adults. Yes, there are a few crass jokes, but for the most part the focus is not on being crude, but on setting the tone of a general, crazy sort of fun and creativity. It made for a delightfully simple experience that feels as if the characters in those Amblin films are still having the same sort of adventures as grown ups.
All in all, this is a fun feature that puts a real emphasis on creativity. The set design alone is worth the cost of entry, but the themes of artistry and failure combined with the in-tune actors make this worth coming back to see again. Fans of the creativity of TURBO KID (2015) or LABYRINTH (1986) need to make seeing this a priority.
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