Dave Made a Maze
Whimsical indie adventure about an artist who finds himself and his friends lost in a labyrinthian artwork of his own creation
If an artist finds their inspiration blocked, they don't usually give into frustration and create a cardboard maze that ends up taking on a life of its own. This, however, is the whimsical premise of winning American indie Dave Made a Maze. The maze’s representation of frustrated creativity is immediately endearing (not to mention relatable). The rough-and-ready backdrop for Dave and company’s fantastic adventures, however, is the star of the show; the plot and people are as insubstantial as the cardboard world.
As Dave’s friends – some equipped with cameras for an in-universe documentary – navigate through his bizarre creation, everyday materials create a set of obstacles that would not be out of place in an Indiana Jones movie. The booby traps and cardboard creatures might represent the stuff of nightmares, but they are so charmingly handmade that it's hard not to be swept along by the antics. While the body count is substantial, the sense of peril is negligible – it loses some engagement here, but the low stakes make Dave unashamedly fun. Seeing monsters moving almost as claymation figures alongside live action highlights the practical effects’ ingenuity. These sections – clearly labours of love, making the most of a miniscule budget – are the films’ strongest, most exciting moments. There is some untidy editing that occasionally distracts, but it more often adds to the fanciful storytelling.
None of the performances are standouts, but Nick Thune as Dave and Meera Rohit Kumbhani as Dave’s girlfriend Annie earn sympathy through their lowkey, natural rapport. A quiet scene with multiple paper costume changes is an endearing highlight. There is not much that will stick in the memory after the charmingly animated credits roll, but Dave is an hour and a half of light-hearted fun, revelling in the whimsy of the mundane and celebrating the adventures – real and imaginary – that cement friendships and memories.