The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Dave Made a Mazw

Lots of movies feel recycled from other movies. Dave Made a Maze is the first movie that could literally be recycled. Almost all the sets are made out of cardboard. If that sounds a little kooky, believe me when I say it's entirely appropriate to the story. There's an inventive spirit to the film that's addictive. You get an astonishing visual experience that keeps you hooked from start to finish.

Nick Thune plays Dave. His girlfriend Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) comes home one day to find a cardboard fort in the living room of their apartment. Dave says that he's constructed a labyrinth inside and is now lost within it. He forbids her to enter. Annie calls over a few friends, including a documentary filmmaker (James Urbaniak), and everyone largely mocks his weird behavior. Then they all decide to go in, despite his warnings. The maze is, as Dave claims, “bigger than it looks.” They, too, become lost. Everyone has to work together to find a way out, while an angry cardboard Minotaur chases after them.

The central joke of Dave Made a Maze is that, from the outside, the thing looks like a couple refrigerator boxes taped together. From the inside, however, it's sprawling. Dave's self-made world is also filled with elaborate booby-traps, leading to some of the characters dying, their blood represented in the form of red tissue paper flying around. The movie occasionally feels like an entry in the Saw franchise as directed by Michel Gondry.

Much of the fun comes from the pervasive creativity director Bill Watterson and his crew bring. The production design team deserves an Oscar nomination for their work. Each room in the maze is different and unique. There's one with a giant cardboard demon statue, another that's decorated with playing cards. The characters find themselves in a room that's reminiscent of the trash compactor from Star Wars. There's even one that cleverly utilizes forced perspective tricks, leading to a scene that's mind-bending in the most engaging way. You never know what's going to be around the corner as the characters traverse the maze, and it's wild how the set literally moves, as though alive.

Of course, Dave Made a Maze is more of a stunt than a story. Much of the picture is people stumbling upon one crazy corner of the maze or another. Toward the end, there is a scene in which Dave explains why he made this creation and what he hopes to achieve from it. His explanation touches on issues of insecurity and self-disappointment. Such themes would have been more powerful if the movie showed Dave's life before he entered the cardboard world. But when we first meet him, he's already in there, so while the justification has meaning, it lacks a full punch.

The sheer fun and imagination of the movie compensates for that, though. A significant amount of effort has clearly gone into envisioning a fantasyland so filled with cool little details that you almost need repeat viewings to catch them all. Dave Made a Maze is an original, entertaining, and admirably designed look at how we're all capable of creating messes from which it can be difficult to extricate ourselves.

( out of four)

Dave Made a Maze is unrated, but contains some strong language. The running time is 1 hour and 20 minutes.

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