Thursday, July 7, 2011

Movie Review: "Mazes and Monsters" by David Pretty

Greetings, Slayers of Internet Trolls!

Hoo boy, where to begin?  Speaking of beginnings, who could possibly have seen past Tom Hanks's whiny, dead-eyed portrayal of crazed LARP-er Robbie Wheeling in this stinker and predicted a future that was rife with Oscar wins and choice projects.  It's a wacky world, folks!

This flick is a pure guilty pleasure for me.  I just love it to death.  It's the perfect embodiment of undiluted 80's kitch: the clothes, the hair, the dreadful "Love Theme".  Hey, whatever happened to the "Love Theme" in movies anyway?  I'm waiting for Judd Apatow to notice it's absence.

Above all, I love the treatment of role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons as psychological nitroglycerin.  "We have to find a player that wont flunk out or freak out", the head-dress obsessed Maze Controller J.J. (Chris Makepeace) says at one point.

At first, Robbie adamantly refuses to play "Mazes and Monsters" ever again ("Come on, just one campaign!") but his latent interest in nerd queen Kate (Wendy Crewson) causes him to overlook his past obsession with the game.  Little do the other group members know, Robbie is seriously damaged goods, coming from a miserable home life from which his older brother Hall has already fled, never to return.  It's not long before Robbie starts to turn into his game character, which no-one seems to notice until, he too, vanishes from his dorm room at Grant University.

He comes up for air briefly after stabbing a mugger in the streets of New York City (after an unintentionally funny fantasy/hallucination sequence in which Robbie sees his would-be assailant as Kermit the Frog on anabolic steroids).  He calls Kate from a payphone and what follows is a scene that I'm sure Hanks would love to excise from his resume:


Mercifully (?), the Fellowship manages to prevent Robbie from swan diving off the World Trade Center (!).  We then flash forward to a re-union months later and the friends discover, to their horror, that Robbie has permanently lapsed into the game.

So what do these so-called friends do?  Why, they proceed to unravel months of hypothetical therapy and enable his psychotic state by traipsing off into the forest with him while "in character".  Priceless stuff.

Yes, the performances are godawful.   Yes, the dialogue is laughably inept ("That was really stupid, J.J, jumping into the pit without using your sonar first.  Really stupid!").  And yes, it did a decade's worth of harm to the hobby of role-playing games.  In fact, I even seem to remember watching the finale with my parents and then undergoing a rigorous post-credits Q&A about my own mental state.

But I love this piece of crap so much that I actually bought it on DVD.  Hmmmmm, maybe RPG's did damage my grasp on reality after all...

"Inside is the kingdom of the evil Voracians, led by the powerful Ak-Oga.  They are believed to guard a tremendous treasure, but you must brave terrible danger.  Shall ye enter?"


  Tilt: W-A-A-A-A-A-A-Y  the fuck up.

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