I was planning to go to a movie yesterday at the Writers Guild, called Dave Made a Maze. It was co-written and directed by Bill Watterson, which intrigued me, since Bill Watterson -- is the fellow who wrote the comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes. And further, the description of the plot had a very Calvin and Hobbes sense of imagination to the storyline. Shortly before leaving, though I just decided to double-check by assumption, and it turned out to not be that Bill Watterson at all, but someone else entirely. Since that had been what most caught my attention, thought I might not go. But I decided to check out the trailer, and was to taken by the first 30 seconds that I stopped, not wanting to give too much away. And that I went. And boy, was it ever unique -- and fun.
The story, co-written with Steven Sears, is about a frustrated artist who decides he wants to finally finish something, so he builds what basically appears to be a fort made of cardboard boxes in his living room. But outward appearances are deceiving because the inside bizarrely is a massively large labyrinth. And he's gotten lost in it. And it's filled with booby traps. And a Minotaur is chasing him and then his friends who come to rescue him, along with one friend whose brought his documentary film crew.
The way the story develops is incredibly clever, and the production design is a hoot. In one scene, the room looks normal, but you soon realize it's all forced perspective optical illusions. Another time, they slide down a chute and turn into cardboard puppets. Or there's the room where the guy has built a maze inside his maze. Trust me, this gives away little -- there are wildly inventive twists and turns around every corner. And before getting to the corners.
The movie won an Audience Award at the Slamdance Film Festival, and has won a lot of other awards at festivals, as well. Surprisingly, as funny as the film is all the way through, it's also a bit dark in parts, borderline "scary" (though never really crossing the border since it's all handled with odd humor and a whimsical eye), and it's uncertain as watch you how much will actually turn out well for the characters. There's an offbeat sense of malevolence throughout -- yet the humor holds up even then. It doesn't all work. But most does, and I love any movie that takes such risks and pushes the form. And for as outlandish as it is, I also admire how utterly bone-dry it's done -- no small feat. Being so matter-of-fact low-key when all this utter insanity is going on around them They even manage to poke fun at the title of the movie in their own sly way.
The trailer doesn't do it full-justice, and leaves out most of the malice, but actually gives a reasonable sense of the film.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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