A Cardboard Dream – Dave Made A Maze (2017)

Dave Made A Maze (2017) is an independent film, which overcomes its small budget with outstanding levels of creativity.

I’ll say that right away. The concept of Dave Made A Maze (2017) is highly dependent on viewer’s imagination, with the budget constraint being a pain in you-know-where.

However, there is a list of films that managed to brilliantly sail this imaginary ship. Dave Made A Maze (2017), although lacking in substance and character design, buys the audience with its fabulous visuals – the storm sometimes hits hard, but this ship still sails.

What is Dave Made A Maze (2017) about?


The titular character – a frustrated artist named Dave – indeed built a maze. His maze is nothing like you have ever seen before – everything is built out of cardboard. By coincidence, Dave gets trapped in his own creation and seems to be unable to find a way out. A rescue team, consisting of his girlfriend, a close friend, a filming team and even some random Flemish tourists, enters the labyrinth in order to find Dave.

In the first scene, Dave confesses to the camera that “if only he could finish the maze, things wouldn’t go so berserk-bad”. What can possibly go berserk-bad for sweet-looking guy?

Dave Made A Maze (2017) has too many people to follow

Before the director Bill Watterson answers the question, and throws the characters into the labyrinth made of wood pulp, he firstly spends brief minutes to sketch them. To call them random is understatement.

There’s a geeky friend of Dave named Gordon (Adam Busch), a stereotype filmmaker-wannabee Harry (James Urbaniak) along with his clueless crew. Watterson adds a bunch of Flemish tourists, who happen to be invited to a random house (I too have no clue…), and a chubby-and-noisy friend of… someone (?) and even a hipster couple finds its brief appearance. They are all led by Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani), Dave’s I-am-strong-and-independent partner.

This motley crew gets on wheels the moment they enter the maze. It is also a moment, when the viewer is freed from painful and corny comedy bits, that seriously undermine Watterson’s Dave Made A Maze (2017).

And so we enter the maze.

The set design in Dave Made A Maze (2017) is bonkers – and I loved it!

dave made a maze 2017 movie review

The imaginary labyrinth is a tremendous piece of set design – the meticulously glued cardboard walls, with colorful boxes used as a construction material, are only the beginning. The maze seems truly exit-less, with every chamber being weirder than the previous one. There is space for a maze-in-maze, a techno-club interior with feminine figures dancing on the wall and a hole disturbingly reminding of a vagina. It’s a peak into a frustrated artist’s mind – dangerous and incomprehensible.

There is a bit of horror even, provided by some weird creatures living in the labyrinth too. Wandering in these rooms with the rescue team, the viewer might feel as if the question – what would happen if the creators of the bizarre YouTube show Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared would make a film – is being partially answered in Dave Made A Maze (2017). I was on board with all its wackiness and childishness.

Watterson sells his protagonist short

In spite of all of it’s undeniable charm, Watterson’s variation on Alice in Wonderland lacks in plot. The titular carton-made maze is a prison that Dave constructs in his mind – a kind of defense mechanism that he puts in motion. You’d expect a serious gut-punch delivered by the script, which would explain this bizarre turn of events. A complete mental breakdown? A disease?

Well, not quite.

Watterson indeed offers batshit crazy visuals, alas Dave’s life quandaries are simply daft. The two main factors weighing in are “I’m on my parents’ payroll“, mixed with “I’m not able to finish anything“. In this apathetic state, I can hardly see the guy create a killing machine inside his head. For an uninspired artist, the stuff he conjures up in that brain is pretty inventive to me.

Finally, Watterson heavily underdeveloped the relationship of Dave and his girlfriend. Any kind of tension between them dilutes over one-note comedy bits and the deadly traps inside the maze. As a consequence, that further deepens the problem with the protagonist. Dave’s supposed to be emotionally drained, but this isn’t particularly explored with the script.

The little time spent on their fragile bond is not enough to fully examine it, which is a pity as it could give Watterson’s film in-depth look into the main characters. If Dave really had a reason to hide in a cardboard maze, the plot would gain in substance. Without it, Dave Made A Maze (2017) is a spectacle of absolutely cool, extremely kitschy stuff that would fit an episode of Goosebumps just fine. As a standalone movie, you take the risk yourself to enter the maze.

Dave Made A Maze (2017) – Culturally Loved or Hated?

While owning its DIY-imbued set design in every detail, this independent movie suffers from preposterous reasons for its plot to exist.

Dave Made A Maze (2017)

Hate Grade: 4.5/10

Director: Bill Watterson

Writers: Steven Sears, Bill Watterson

Starring: Meera Rohit Kumbhani, Nick Thune, James Urbaniak

Music: Mondo Boys

Cinematography: Jon Boal

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