Cinematic Releases: Dave Made a Maze (2017) - Reviewed

There's no need to build a labyrinth when the entire universe is one.

--Jorge Luis Borges

Anyone who is involved in artistic endeavors has dealt with some sort of creative block. They want to make something but they just...can't. The reasons and excuses are plentiful but it all boils down to just one point. The artist is at a standstill. Dave Made A Maze tackles the concept of creative block in an intriguing way: with a cardboard maze.

Dave (Nick Thune) is a regular sort of dude who wants to make something incredible but thus far has been unsuccessful. He has a beautiful and supportive girlfriend named Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani), a pretty sweet apartment, and some buddies who care about him. Yet, something is preventing him from exercising his creative juices. One day, while home alone, he builds a cardboard fort in his living room and this is when the magic happens.

The inside of the cardboard maze is way larger than the outside and anyone who goes inside gets trapped within its many twists and turns. Of course, that means the film takes a trip into magical realism, and to their credit they don't explain much about the mechanics or reasoning behind the crazy events. The set piece of the maze is absolutely fantastic and you can tell a lot of love went into building it. The walls look pasted together, and the obstacles and traps are constructed from purposely low-fi materials which gives it a kitschy look. They even play around with some optical illusions and forced perspective shots which are always fun to see, especially in modern films.

I just love 2001!

While the tone of the film is fanciful, occasionally it delves into darker territory. The traps, while cute-looking, are still dangerous and can maim or kill whoever activates them. The maze itself represents Dave's motivation and all the obstacles/mental hang-ups that he has to get past before he can find his way out and become a successful artist. Dave Made a Maze is about people trapped in a literal maze but it's also about internal motivations and the ways that we hinder ourselves with self-doubt.

While the film moves at a quick pace (perhaps too quickly) it does sag a bit in the second act. The story takes a few unnecessary detours that don't really go anywhere, not unlike going down the wrong path in a maze and finding a dead-end. I wish it had focused more on Dave and Annie's relationship because it touches on some interesting ideas about how lack of self-actualization can deteriorate a connection between two people. While the concept of the film is great, it never quite reaches any sort of real depth with the idea or the themes. Luckily, the sheer originality of the visuals, the playful musical score by Mondo Boys, and the chemistry of the characters carries much of the film.

If you are looking for a fantastical indie flick with practical effects that evokes that old Nickelodeon show Legends of the Hidden Temple (but with more death) then check out Dave Made a Maze!

--Michelle Kisner