Cartoonist Bill Watterson was born in 1948, and the six-year-old protagonist of his Generation X-defining comic strip Calvin and Hobbes often used cardboard boxes as the vehicle for his flights of fantasy. Director Bill Watterson was born in 1973, making him 12 years old when Calvin and Hobbes debuted, and the 30-something protagonist of his movie Dave Made a Maze uses cardboard boxes as the vehicle for his flight of fantasy.
That’s all no doubt a coincidence, but the film itself is full of such familiar thematic coincidences. Dave (Nick Thune) has built an enclosed cardboard maze in the apartment he shares with his improbably hot girlfriend Annie (Meera Rohit Kumbhani). It’s bigger on the inside, and Dave and Annie soon lead a motley group that includes friend Gordon (Adam Busch) and documentarian Harry (James Urbaniak, always the best thing on-screen) as they try to survive the various cardboard-but-lethal booby traps. The production design is consistently clever, and beyond all the Raiders and Snowpiercer and Inside Out parallels, the picture even finds time to pay homage to the breakfast montage in Citizen Kane. Unfortunately, Dave Made a Maze’s ingenuity is in service of yet another story about a scruffy dude who needs to learn to get his shit together. It’s still worth the trip, but only just.
Dave Made a Maze
Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.