Now that the end of 2017 is almost here, I’m trying to catch up on some of the year’s movies I missed along the way. First up: Dave Made a Maze, an independent fantasy-comedy marking the directorial debut of Bill Waterson.
I thought Dave Made a Maze was going to be a slasher film as directed by a Michel Gondry type:
Some dude named Dave (Nick Thune) builds a cardboard maze in his living room that somehow becomes magically powered by his own imagination and adopts TARDIS-esque bigger-on-the-inside dimensions? And there’s a minotaur hunting everyone down and turning them into confetti? AND most of the people who die are broad stereotypes of New York hipsters?
Um, yes, please. I can’t say no to a movie which cuts a character’s head off and then has confetti spew out of her neck instead of blood. But the problem with this movie is there’s almost nothing more to it than the inherent whimsy of its premise.
Dave’s a chronically unemployed artist still supplemented by his parents and forever begging for jobs he knows he will hate. His ever-patient girlfriend (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) is about to break up with him. His friends all want him to finally finish at least some of the art projects he starts.
That feels like a deeply personal, if also very familiar story. It’s a movie about a dude trying to finally get his shit together, but that meant literally escaping so far into his art that he needed his friends – some of whom are more interested in documenting his behavior on camera for a documentary than actually helping – to pull him out. However, I think the existence of this movie is probably the result of frustrated artists trying to prove to themselves that they could finally see a project though, and along the way they focused so much on the challenge and potential of building a world entirely out of cardboard they forgot to fill it with characters we’ll ever remember. Plus, they introduce a killer monster and then do next to nothing with it.
Each of the increasingly inventive cardboard rooms in the maze reflects Dave’s anxieties and fears, but that only works if Dave and his friends are worth caring about. Instead, they’re all exactly as flat as their cardboard surroundings, and apart from one rather twee, yet nakedly honest heart-to-heart between Dave and his girlfriend, none of the emotional moments really connect.
To be fair, the cardboard sets and creatures they built are exactly as ingenious and fun to look at as they need to be. So, there is an overabundance of creativity on display here, but not nearly enough depth.