Wednesday, November 5, 2008

MAZES AND MONSTERS (Steven Hilliard Stern, 1982, USA) Robbie’s fractured mind finally shatters, becoming lost in the dark reflection of reality, his quest to attain enlightenment atop the Two Towers…I guess he failed his saving throw. This made-for-television movie feels cheap, rushed, poorly shot, layered with cheesy muzak and stock sound effects, and is dully acted. This is also one of the worst DVD transfers I have ever seen: it looks to be ported directly from an old VHS! Rona Jaffe wants us to believe that imagination leads to self-destruction, that we should conform and become successful in order to assimilate into the world: I wish this film had some imagination because the premise is intriguing. The movie begins with standard exposition of our four characters and lays the foundation of their familial conflicts. Then it proceeds to gravely warn us that a role playing game is subversive and mind-altering, loosening the creaking hinges upon our doors of perception, our labyrinthine emotional turmoil a result of needless fantasy escapism. I suppose none of the blame falls on the family, their cruel tyranny alluded to and briefly witnessed, their offspring exiled from their fascist commune. Obviously, the writers know very little of Dungeons & Dragons because no one speaks in these gothic incantations: the Dungeon Master and players are too busy arguing over the rules, eating nachos, and trying to find their favorite twenty-sided die. Tom Hanks as Pardue the Holy Man is the lone bright spot, dim though it shines through the murk of the maze; in retrospect, we can see the makings of a fine actor as he delivers his lines with the utmost sincerity and conviction. The rest of the movie is humdrum and boilerplate, standard inane television fare, food for the thoughtless. (F)

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