I was fortunate to grow up with films like The Never Ending Story, Labyrinth, Gremlins, and Explorers. To me, these zany films allowed me to explore my own dreams, to follow my passions, and to realize that the world is a much bigger, but not as scary a place as I thought it was. These days, films are less focused on dreams and more on conquering our fears.
Yet, every once in a while, a film comes along that dares to explore the things that defined my childhood film experiences; a film that is so zany, so unbelievable that it just has to be seen with your own eyes.
Here enters writer-director Bill Watterson’s debut feature, Dave Made a Maze, a film that made the festival circuit earlier this year and has entertained, delighted and surprised so many festival goers, and is now in a limited theatrical release.
Dave (Nick Thune), a struggling artist seeks to create something significant. Dave lives with his girlfriend Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) in a small one-bedroom apartment. His problem is that he never finishes anything that he starts and he decides one day to build a cardboard fort, becoming trapped in the self-evolving maze leaving Annie and their friends to effect a rescue.
Developed on a micro-budget, Watterson made something really special out of literally nothing more than a few sheets of cardboard and some tape. The acting is really what carries the film and sells the premise. Thune is brilliant as the misanthropic Dave. Kumbhani was absolutely hilarious as the deadpan Annie. She is Dave’s rock and yet, is tired of his lack of follow-through. As his rock though, she understands the importance of what Dave started and why he needs to complete his quest.
The heart in Watterson and co-writer Steven Sears’s script comes from the supporting cast. The cynical Gordon (Adam Busch) is more talk and less about action (no wonder why he’s a perfect best friend for Dave), Greg (Timothy Nordwind) and Brynn (Stephanie Allynne) want to be able to brag about this experience, and documentarian Harry (James Urbaniak), along with his two-man film crew, are determined to make the whole experience more frightening than it actually is.
The motley rescue crew ignores Dave’s warnings and what follows is a hilarious reality check in a cardboard world where they need to find an exit strategy, quickly.
The amount of detail that went into creating the visual look of the film is staggering and it shows in both the cardboard creations and the practical special effects. This film is very much a throwback to ‘80s PG – rated movies with tongue-in-cheek references to Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The references are where this film’s imagination shines. Sure, there are unexplained inconsistencies in the story. So long as imagination and dreams flow, life’s inconsistencies are bound to show up some times.
Now playing in theaters, sit back, relax and take it all in. Life will never be the same after you’ve seen Dave Made a Maze.