Dave Made a Maze (2017)
If you want to survive this fantasy world, think outside the boxes.
The funny thing about originality on a personal basis is that the most original thing is usually that which you come across first - which is how even the oldest of movies can feel cliched despite being the originator of the cliches. For the first time in a long time, I give you something that I really haven't seen done quite like this before - and at this point, I've probably forgotten more movies than the average person just based on pure saturation alone. A trailer that promises creative visuals and potentially more than just the right amount of weird yanked my interest train on new rails, but lets see if Dave Made a Maze has what it takes to be a promised fun or if it ends as nothing more than a half-bull in a paper plate store.
If you happen to be a familiar with the idea of "sweded movies", or those low-budget recreations of movies who often substitute things like cardboard for flashy computer graphics, than you might not find the visual department of this film to really be all that original. For me, to see this intentionally used in a movie like this it's rather an original feature. So used to super fancy effects and high-budget practical costumes we've been slathered in, some finer potions of our imaginations get left on the wayside. For this film though, the cardboard isn't just a cheap replacement, but something that harkens to your childhood days of sitting in a box and imagining something far more elaborate like a race car or space ship - and at the same time it is very much the set, some costumes, some props, a veritable treasure trove of movie segments.
And although it's very much that crude cardboard we are seeing, the things it accomplishes with it are quite amusing. From believably cobbled together rooms, to traps with sharp edges, and even to a hulking beast lurking the confused halls we find our brown stiffened paper everywhere. It isn't just cardboard, however - we still get plenty of equally childlike inclusions of things such as origami paper or plastic pipes, sometimes even other materials such as fabrics and yarns are thrown at us (sometimes quite literally). Where normally you would expect to see some fancier effect like a gout of liquid, instead it's replaced here with yarns or piles of crumpled and tossed papers. It really can nab at those nostalgia strings as you imagine all these different things you may have done as a kid.
The plot can seem a bit weak though, so don't let me sing nothing but praises just because I'm amused by the use of materials on hand. Not a whole lot is really explained about how any of this is even possible - instead the movie largely choosing to just carry on with it's one track thought of getting Dave out of his maze. For most the characters, we are pretty well on par with them as to how or why it's there - it just is. Sometimes the characters even point out how absurd things can be, but some of this little attention to details - although perhaps not enhancing the plot in the slightest - are still great little additions. Of course, although the plot is simple doesn't exactly mean the movie doesn't have anything to say and particularly towards the end the movie will relatively flat out say exactly some of the things you of the more thoughtful type could pick up and discuss or take up some introspective on. For me, of course, fun is more in the ride than me reflecting on life because of the message at hand.
For fun, beyond visuals of course, the movie throws plenty of comedy at the walls. Some is hit or miss - as comedy always will be a subjective thing. You like physical comedy? One "party member" gets hit in the jewels relatively early on, and there are plenty of moments that result in incredibly silly faces. Substituted elements more your thing? How about blood being replaced by yarn and confetti spray while witness's react in shock and awe? Timing gags, reference gags, objects, rhymes - there's a lot here. Despite the quantity, I didn't find myself exactly rolling across the floor, but I did laugh a good number of times and overall the moments of me grinning from ear to ear like a loonie would indicate that I still enjoyed it regardless.
The actors here do a pretty good job, although largely that job comes down to being a bit over-played characters for most the crew. Although the main three feel a bit like some depth might be had there, only the female main comes off feeling as though she's particularly well acted - although as usual I'd like to point out that how much of this is a writing thing is beyond me. I feel that the actors all play up their roles as intended - the film-guy friend who wants to make a documentary is almost a cartoon rendition of it, frequently being unfazed by events going on around him and instead being solely focused on getting interview-style reactions from people and shots. Likewise, Dave himself has a few moments where he feels genuinely like a character, but largely as though his only purpose is to be stubborn until everyone agrees to finish the maze. In this way, I see things as a mixed bag - it's not bad enough that I don't enjoy what I'm seeing nor does it feel particularly out of place, but it's also not acting that's so convincing from most that you don't feel as though it's just a movie you're watching.
Audio is pretty well balanced, and hearing lines was never an issue. Sound effects came across in a mix between accurate and some being quite comical - such as trap wires sounding excited as someone got close or sad as they walked away, or even the video game like sounds when taking inventory. There's even a nice little gag where one of them asks for help from down a hall, and the only one to hear the whisper is the sound guy with his headphones when the microphone picks it up. Again, it's little details like that which pop up and help bring a little more enjoyment out of something already enjoyable. Of course, never answered in full is why exactly this maze came to life - despite it being poked fun at at one point - and there isn't a whole lot left to the imagination of people wanting to know what kind of commentary the movie might have on society when spell it right out. There's also a few jokes that are played up a little bit at the start - such as the homeless man or the tourists - who get maybe one little shot later to finish off their joke and can really feel like a general miss the target.
I'd really like to say that this should be a watch for everyone - although I might be a little hesitant to call it a fiver (a movie which I would return to on a yearly basis or more), I can easily seeing this thing as at least one that if I see it sitting about somewhere I'd probably pick it up to watch it again. I can keep saying it as much as I want and nobody can stop me here, but I really had fun watching this movie. The use of the low-budget materials felt really original, and the entire thing as it played out was endlessly entertaining despite some characters being more like caricature and the plot itself being an unanswered simplicity. Easily I can recommend this as at least a rental to check it out for it's enjoyment value alone, as I do feel quite a lot of people would really have fun watching this. Bring a friend even, just watch out for those paper cuts.