Star Rating: 4 out 5 stars
“Did they die, or just turn into craft supplies?”
I wish there existed an award to give to the most creative films out there. Dave Made a Maze might just be the most creative film I have seen to date. It features practical effects at their finest and most creative, while also featuring an impressive cast and script that build a believable imaginary world that can only be seen to be believed.
Dave Made a Maze is about a guy named Dave (Nick Thune). Dave is apparently some sort of artist with no real job prospects, but he lives with his girlfriend who has a steady job while Dave stays at home all day. Dave is also incapable of finishing many of the projects he starts, that is until he makes a maze. While his girlfriend, Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) is away one weekend, Dave starts to work on a small cardboard fort. He spends hours on the fort until it appears that the fort has taken on a mind of its own and is now growing into a sort of maze, complete with booby traps and dead ends. When Annie comes home, she discovers that Dave has been trapped in the maze for days and decides, with the help of her friends, to rescue him and build the maze.
The fun begins when Annie steps into the maze for the first time and realizes that the maze is indeed a lot bigger than the refrigerator box taped to her living room floor. This is also where a majority of the fun starts for the audience because this is where the film shows off its practical effects. Everything from here on out (besides the actors…for a bit) is made from cardboard. The walls. The birds. The big menacing faces. The booby straps. Everything. Minus a few props that the actors take with them into the maze. It’s one of those things you have to really see to believe, and one can only imagine how many hours of work went into each and every single set piece. Some of the shots are even impressive with the seamless transition from real to fake. It’s something that only someone with a very creative mind could have come up with. I almost wish that this film would receive a sequel with a bigger and better maze, but the way it ends is perfect. I think because of the practical nature of this film, it makes it easier to slip into their roles and appreciate the world that Dave has built around them.
The one disappointing aspect of the film is the story itself. It makes sense why Annie and her friends go into the maze; to rescue Dave. But, once inside the maze things get a little muddled. Some of it is better as a mystery. Why did the maze take on a mind of its own and build without Dave? But some aspects, like the purpose of the maze, get wrapped up in some back and forths between Dave and Annie and remains fairly incoherent. Some of this does have to do with the nature of the maze itself (as a living, breathing, cardboard organism), but things could have been a lot clearer even with the mystery of the maze.
While there are some shortcomings in the script, the actors make up for those shortcomings. Each of the characters in this film looks and sound a lot like a hipster caricature, but it plays it in a way that is more comedic than pretentious. In a way, the film manages to make each of the characters fit a stereotype, while also making them human and relatable. There were several moments when I could picture me and my friends in the various roles in place of the actors. They seemed normal, in spite of how “created” they were. Another thing that helps the film is its inclusion of newer faces with some other more experienced after. James Urbaniak has shown up in several things I’ve watched over the past several years, as has Adam Busch, Scott Krinsky, and Frank Caeti. These individuals, paired with some of the newer actors, Nick Thune and Meera Rohit Kumbhani, help to balance the film in a way that makes it feel new and indie, but with experience. For a first time writing and directing credit for Bill Waterson and Steven Sears, it helps to have some experience.
Dave Made a Maze is a wildly imaginative film that pairs practical effects with a unique story that can appeal to a lot of people. It’s not hard to find people who struggle with completion or finding purpose in life, and for Dave that meant building (and finishing) the maze. The theme this film presents is one that many people can relate to, and while it wasn’t very subtle, I found that it did not hurt the film in any way. Dave Made a Maze, in reality, is not for everyone, but it should be. There are plenty of aspects to it that can appeal to a wide variety of people, like the humor, the characters, and the message. It’s not only a fun film to watch for the film itself, but it’s fun to watch the actors having fun along with you.