Dave Made a Maze is a fun, but at times unsatisfying, stab at surrealist comedy, which owes much to the work of Michel Gondry. It has the handmade quality of his music videos and films, and the primary tactile element is cardboard. It’s very endearing to the viewer. It also feels like a extended episode of the kind of American sitcom that hipsters lap up, a format that I have a deeply rooted hatred for, with very few exceptions.
The Dave (Nick Thune) of the title has built a cardboard fort in his apartment while his girlfriend Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani) has been away. She is shocked and intrigued by this fort, which is allegedly bigger on the inside. Dave warns her to not enter, but Annie has some friends over and even a film crew, and they decided to enter the fort. Inside it’s a labyrinthine maze that has everything from attacking origami birds to its very own Minotaur.
The film runs at a very breezy 80 minutes and never outstays it’s welcome. It’s not quite the instant quirky classic that some have claimed, but it’s full of invention and imagination, and that’s rare in Independent cinema—never mind Hollywood—these days. It’s the directorial debut from Bill Watterson, who has mostly been an actor playing bit parts. Dave Made a Maze is an impressive debut film, and certainly marks the arrival of an imaginative and interesting director whose progression will be worth following. The ensemble cast is also solid, with a stand-out performance by James Urbaniak as the filmmaker leading his film crew through the cardboard wonderland. Urbaniak shows that he is one of the more underrated character actors around.
The humour is very hit and miss, but it’s full of charm, and that means that I will probably go back to it in the near future. Also, the opening credits theme is an old song from The Equals, which is always a plus.
The Arrow disc includes a 20-minute making-of featurette, a commentary from Watterson and his co-writer Steven Sears, deleted scenes with optional commentary, a Slamdance filmmaker spotlight, “the worst fundraising pitch video you’ve ever seen,” UK and US trailers, storyboards and concept galleries, and a booklet with writing on the film by Anton Bitel.