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DAVE MADE A MAZE Is Like a Homemade LABYRINTH for Adults (Review)

DAVE MADE A MAZE Is Like a Homemade LABYRINTH for Adults (Review)

We all enjoy conventional movies sometimes. There’s something sort of comforting about the familiarity of most “tentpole” blockbusters — and there’s a reason we keep returning to the same sitcom ensembles year after year. There’s nothing wrong with safe, semi-predictable, conventional entertainment.

But every once in a while you just want to dive into something offbeat, goofy, or plain old weird — doubly so when it’s an oddball indie that actually has a few legitimate points to make amidst all its giddy madness. And that brings us to Dave Made a Maze, a dry, strange, and unexpectedly engaging indie comedy that, like its main characters, starts off in one familiar place and then wanders off in all sorts of unpredictable directions. Best of all, it’s the sort of untraditional, original, personal indie flicks that seems to reward repeat viewings — and seems likely to pick up lots of fans over the next several years, albeit in almost exclusively word-of-mouth fashion.

As the title plainly indicates, Dave (Nick Thune) has made a maze. Out of cardboard. In his apartment. And now he cannot seem to find his way out. Dave’s maze is, of course, partially constructed by the movie magic that allows it to be exponentially larger on the inside than it is on the outside, which means that you’ll have to use your imagination to truly appreciate what writer/director Bill Watterson has cooked up here. Along with his co-writer Steven Sears, Watterson — not the celebrated Calvin & Hobbes creator; I looked it up — has crafted sort of a DIY eventual cult flick, one that feels like a clever horror satire at one point; a low-fi rendition of a quest movie another; and then a quietly insightful dry comedy about isolation, depression, and co-dependence.

Once you digest the central (yes, bizarre) conceit, the movie becomes a lot of fun. Dave’s girlfriend Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) returns to their apartment only to find him impossibly lost in a seemingly flimsy maze of his own creation. And he absolutely refuses to let her smash the whole thing down. So already we’re dealing with some amusingly accessible symbolism here. Annie decides to enlist the help of loyal pals Gordon, the wise-ass, (Adam Busch), aspiring documentarian Harry (James Urbaniak) — and several distinctly neurotic others — and off they go into the teeny, tiny, booby-trapped, cardboard maze…

…which of course is all sorts of gigantic and confusing once they’re on the inside! Annie and her goofball crew head off to find Dave, and along the way we’re offered some funny jabs at horror flicks, “found footage,” quest movies, overly maudlin indie dramas, and self-obsessed hipsters in general — but Dave Made a Maze is probably at its best when it’s being (relatively) sincere. Tucked away inside this likable indie comedy you’ll find some unexpected depth of character and bemused empathy. Strip away the openly silly trappings of Dave Made a Maze and you’ll have a movie that’s actually “about” some pretty heavy subjects. Each viewer will draw their own interpretations, but most will agree there’s a lot more going on here than just a low-budget, grown-up version of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. Only instead of millions of dollars worth of puppets and production design we get tons of nifty craftwork (mostly cardboard), some truly impressive “homemade” special effects, and a very tenacious minotaur. Obviously. What’s a maze without a minotaur?

But hey, if that’s the description that inspires you to give an odd little movie a shot, fine. Dave Made a Maze does feel a lot like a low-budget, grown-up version of Labyrinth. It’s odd, amusing, and consistently colorful on the surface — but it also has some pretty deep pools of thought for those who are willing to search them out. And even if the movie doesn’t work for you, hell, at least you can’t say it’s a premise you’ve seen before.

4.5 craft store burritos out of 5

Images: Gravitas Ventures

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