Mazes and MonstersAmerican Release Date: December 28, 1982
Boycott the Caf name: "Why did my parents buy me this?"
Important characters: Kate, Tom Hanks, Freelic the Cleric
Issue of the Week: Dungeons and Dragons will make you trip balls
When I was a wee lad I had many toys to choose from. GI Joes, Ninja Turtles, Monsters in my Pocket, but one of my favorites wasn't actually a children's toy at all. They were my parent's old Dungeons and Dragons figures. They had play quite a bit in college but had given up the game by the time I was born. They kept their old D&D stuff around as a testament to the fact that Ebay didn't exist in the 80s.
I was drawn to these tiny pewter statues. Sure GI Joe bases are bad ass, but I was a creative kid and being able to create my own dungeons, and tell my own stories appealed to me. Great tales were woven around heroes, monsters, and treasure greater than anyone could ever imagine, except me, because I was imagining it.
Likely due to the influence of my medieval playthings, I found a fondness for fantasy movies. I must have rented The Never Ending Story thirty times, I adored the The Hobbit, and I even watched those horrible Beastmaster movies. Then one day, my parents came home from a day of shopping with a gift. A new movie to add to my list of favorites. Mazes and Monsters.
I didn't like Mazes and Monsters. Maybe because it has low production values. Maybe because it is low on action. Maybe because it takes place in modern times and is anti-D&D propaganda with the message that fantasy games make you go insane. Maybe it's all those reasons, and it's also really shitty. Let's take a look.
The movie starts off with a police siren, ambulances, and a shot of a no trespassing sign. Oh shit, the tarrasque must have awaken from its thousand year sleep right? The only way to defeat it is for the time traveling wizard and his companions, the compassionate but deadly fighter and the ever sneaky thief to come to present day and do battle, right? Right?
No, that would have been an awesome movie. What actually happened, and I'm quoting, "A game of Mazes and Monsters got out of hand." Well fuck me. Somebody forgot to bring Doritos and then Steve the Dungeon Master was being a real dick, and then I guess shit ended up going down in a cave.
Cut to the opening credits, featuring random woman singing about friendship. Why? I don't know.
Our first protagonist, Jay Jay returns home wearing what appears to be one of those German WWI helmets with the spikes on them. Nobody mentions this. Why? Did the prop guy lose the hat he was suppose to wear and they just grabbed something from a different movie?
Jay Jay's mother is about to go out to some dinner party, but first she shows Jay Jay his birthday present. For his birthday Jay Jay's mom redecorated his room to look like a hospital room, which pisses him off since all his stuff is gone. Jay Jay tells his mom that even his pet bird Merlin hates it, and well, that's the saddest thing I've ever written. Our protagonist has a pet bird named Merlin. Even worse, the bird doesn't even back him up.
You know what have been exciting? Instead of a pet bird named Merlin, a wizard Merlin shows up, and then he kills things, with fireballs. They made about a hundred movies with a plot like that, mom and dad. Seven year old me would have appreciated you picking up one of them instead.
Somewhere else, by some water, Kate is talking to her father's former wife, AKA her mother, about college. She has to play dumb at college or else boys won't pay her any attention to her. Kate doesn't care though, she is going to be a famous writer. Unfortunately, she has writer's block. How can she write without actually living life, she ponders? I write all the time and my life has mostly consisted of video games. Of course my greatest works have consisted of short stories about lobsters and a guy who kills people who talk about him kissing women, so maybe it's best if my works never get published.
As "Establish the Main Characters: The Movie" continues, Daniel is getting berated by his parents for going to Grant College instead of MIT. Daniel doesn't want to go into computer programming, he wants to make computer games. Daniel's father gives the reasonable advice that he go to school for computer programming and make games as a hobby, which in the simple world of the early 80s is actually feasible. I long for the day when two people and a computer with less RAM then my calculator could make a best selling video game. Those were the days.
Next fall, Jay Jay and Kate meet up at college, joking how Daniel must be up in the room with his current woman of the week and discussing how they need a fourth player for Mazes and Monsters. Daniel has a flyer ready to put up so that shouldn't be an issue. Also he is wearing a blue cowboy hat because fuck this movie.
Robbie, (Big's Tom Hanks) is on his way to Grant. And he better not be playing and of them there games, his father warns, you know what they did to your grades at other made up school. Also Robbie's mom is supposedly drunk. At least dad accuses her of being drunk. She just seems sarcastic to me. She doesn't seem to bad to me, she defends Robbie (Splash's Tom Hanks) and is sort of likable, which is more then any other character can say.
Weird thing I noticed while watching, all the characters have one suitcase or less. When I went to college I had one suitcase just for my underpants (I had 365 pairs so I only had to do laundry once a year) it amazes me that people once moved into college without having it be an all day affair of moving couches up three flights of stairs.
Robbie (Money Pit's Tom Hanks) notices Jay Jay's ad for a Mazes and Monsters player on a bulletin board. Jay Jay, who was watching the add I guess, immediately runs up and starts talking to him about the ad. Jay Jay is also wearing an aviators hat and goggles because fuck Jay Jay. There's a reason you only have two friends. Robbie is freaked out by the weirdo and hits the ricky road, but not before getting invited to a party Jay Jay is throwing.
There are far more people at Jay Jay's party then there should conceivably be. By that I mean there are people there. I think these are just a bunch of gypsies who were drawn in by the prospect of free food. It would explain why there is gypsies music playing.
Robbie (The Burbs's Tom Hanks) starts talking to Kate about how he got kicked out of his last school for playing too much Maze's and Monsters. Normally this would be an ineffective strategy to impress a girl, but Kate thinks Robbie would be perfect for their game. Because when somebody fails out of college you should really encourage them to do the thing that caused them to fail out. Robbie finally relents and agrees to play with them.
The gaming scene shows the characters seriously playing their roles, surrounded by candles and with Yanni in the background. This is proof that nobody who made the movie plays D&D. I didn't hear a single Monty Python reference during this entire sequence. Also that table looks dumb.
A clever film might show the adventures the three characters face, by a fantasy sequence with the actors taking on those roles, or even by a nifty animated sequence. This would provide a spurt of action into the movie and liven things up. It could also expand on the theme that the characters play the game to escape the real world. Their fantasy counter parts could be shown confronting threats that demonstrate their real life problems.
This movie is not clever, instead we get a montage.
The montage, set to the opening theme song, shows Robbie, Bosom Buddies' Tom Hanks, falling down in the library, jogging with Kate, and of course playing some Mazes and Monsters.
The montage ends and Robbie, randomly accounts to Kate the time his brother, Hall, who ran away during a birthday party on Halloween.
Lets see, teenager disappearing, during a party, on Halloween. Reminds me of a movie I once watched. Could it be? Could the killer be one and the same? Of course!
Robbie's brother was killed by Michael Myers!
Alright, that joke was retarded. Lets see, there is scene where Jay Jay jokes that he would have a better chance at being a comedian if he looked like Daniel. This is suppose to imply that Daniel is good looking, because looks are an important part in being a comedian. Also way to tell your man friend you think he is hot. Daniel says that having a reputation of being "a great make out champion," means he never has a chance with any sensitive girls. So he just bangs sluts instead. This is suppose to make us feel bad for him.
Instead of Mazes and Monsters this movie should have been about the make out world championship.
Jay Jay goes to Kate's room to ask her when she can play M&M again. He is shocked that Robbie is in the room, and refuses an invitation to come in. He seem upset, I think he wishes he could bang somebody, but he never will because he wears retarded hats.
Jay Jay, depressed that he has friends who bang, and also based on a comment from Kate now 16 years old despite looking and acting like the college age characters, talks to his bird about how he should kill himself. It has to be memorable enough that everybody remembers him. He decides the mysterious and forbidden caverns would be the best place to off himself. Everybody remembers the guy that kills himself in a cavern after all.
You know what movie? Its still not too late to be good. Jay Jay kills himself, his blood revives a Lich, Robbie turns out to be a reincarnated paladin, lets go for it!
Jay Jay goes to the cavern. Instead of something interesting happening nothing interesting happens.
During the next gaming session Jay Jay's character Freelick jumps into a pit during their next gaming session, because there is no way that pit which is obviously a trap wouldn't be filled with treasure. What a dumb ass. With a playing style like that I wonder how he even got to level nine.
Everybody breaks character. Jay Jay whines about being dead and Kate calls him stupid. Also they just end the campaign right there. Jay Jay proposes they instead try a new evolution of the game, one nobody has ever tried. One that is more sophisticated and sexier, with a crispy mint after taste. They will go to the suicide caverns and play Mazes and Monsters, but for real!
So basically LARPing.
Kate and Daniel oppose this but for the wrong reasons. They think it will be dangerous. Instead they should think its stupid and lame.
In the end they all decide to do it even though it is stupid and lame. Hey, it's 1982 there's only ten TV channels and crack hasn't been invented yet. You have to kill time somehow.
Jay Jay sits in an area of the cave that somehow allows him to see the entire caverns and they pretend to kill monsters. This is lamer then when Anya was LARPing on Degrassi because there is only four of them, the lighting is bad, and there aren't any princesses.
Daniel is apparently role playing as Freddie from Scooby Doo because he suggests they split up. Robbie (Hasty Pudding Theatricals's Man of the Year award recipient Tom Hanks) thinks this is a bad idea because they are in the dangerous caverns, and Injun Joe might be lurking about.
Robbie gets assaulted by a crazy lizard man, and it looks like this movie just got awesome. Unfortunately he's just hallucinating being in a movie where something actually happens. None of his friends realize Robbie is coo coo bananas even though he keeps talking about how he has failed as a holy man after they stop playing.
Jesus appears to Robbie, (Vault of Horror I director Tom Hanks), in the middle of a giant record and tells him that because he murdered the shit out of that monster he is of the next level. To obtain the highest level he must be pious, humble and celibate. Fuck that shit, what good is the highest level if you can't use it to get chickas?
Robbie, like all of us, follows the directions of the white robed figure from his dream and breaks up with Kate. Kate is confused. Apparently this is similar to Kate's last relationship. She constantly dates people who become priests.
Kate thinks its odd that Robbie, has begun to act like his character. He blesses people, is giving away all his possessions, and keeps shooting magic missiles at bug bears. Danielle thinks there is nothing odd with his friend being insane. He says they work out there problems in the caverns and leave them in the caverns. That's exactly why Robbie is not leaving his problems in the caverns. His problem is insanity.
Record Man tells Robbie that he needs to purify his brain and go find the lost underground city. Robbie also lets the guy know he made a map to the twin towers, which is the place Robbie eventually needs to go. The man tells him he doesn't need a map. Bummer.
Kate is driving at night when she sees Danielle riding his bike, so she follows him into the caverns. Then Kate gets lost and the screen is really dark and its impossible to see anything. Danielle finds her and I guess that's the end of that adventure. 500 XP.
Danielle says he was cheating, and trying to find Jay Jay's hidden treasure when nobody was there. He was cheating at a non-competitive role playing game. I know I keep saying this but that's pretty much the saddest thing ever. Danielle says its because he would want his dad to be proud of him.
In the end it all works out because Kate starts kissing him. Score!
Jay Jay throws a rocking Halloween party. I don't even know how he can fit that many people in his dorm room without violating fire codes, but he does it.
The fact that it is Halloween means that the four main characters met, started playing Mazes and Monsters, got bored and created the new game in the cave all in two months. Also Kate met Robbie, broke up with him and started dating Danielle in the same amount of time. They've accomplished a lot more than I did in my first two months of college. I would still be unpacking at that point.
Robbie leaves the party early to go be crazy.
Robbie has been off being crazy somewhere for the last few days. His friends being the concerned upstanding fantasy nerds that they are decide to rummage through his room to see if he left behind any
weed clues of his whereabouts. They find the map titled "The Two Towers" that he has drawn. Robbie has been cheating on them with that group that plays the Lord of the Rings Adventure Game!
Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys head down to the old caverns to see if Robbie is there. Yay, another scene of people walking around in near darkness shouting to each other.
Kate is convinced that Robbie has gone crazy and turned into his character. There is little to no evidence of this and it would be incredibly far fetched to even assume. Of course we know she is right, but there is no reason she should think she is right. I call player knowledge.
The group decides to clear their game stuff out of the caves and go to the police with the story that Robbie disappeared and they have no idea where he is, but maybe they should try to see if he is in the caverns, just in case. Like, maybe he went up there for completely non-Mazes and Monsters related reasons and got lost. Then he got hit in the head and started calling himself Pardu but that has nothing to do with Mazes and Monsters.
The police question Robbie's friends who all lie their asses off to avoid getting in trouble. Nice friends. Robbie might be dead in a kobold den somewhere but they aren't going to be taking no fall for him. They are justified though, the detective blatantly says he thinks one of the people he played Mazes and Monsters together killed him, because, well there is no reason to think this, but this is an anti-D&D movie so, I guess so.
The next scene is the same as the beginning scene with the police and fire departments raiding the caverns like it's the 20s and Al Capone has been supplying it with booze. What an amazing and important scene. I'm glad we got to see it twice.
The detective tells the main characters that they've looked in the caverns several times and they still can't find any corpses, so they are about to entertain the possibility that his corpse is elsewhere, or possibility he is even alive, possibly run off with some girl.
Jay Jay thinks the way to find Robbie is to assume he has gone insane and is Pardu, and to use their gamer skills to figure out where Pardu would go. Kate uses her woman's intuition to figure out that the words "The Great Hall" written on his map refer to his brother Scott Hall who you may remember has been missing ever since he no showed his own birthday party.
So, where has Robbie (The National Parks: America's Best Idea's Tom Hanks) gone? Well lets find out…right now.
Robbie has taken a trip to majestic New York City. Like all tourists visiting New York, Robbie is soon accosted by street toughs who try to steal his bag of magic spells. If you were mugging somebody and they told you to leave alone their bag of magic spells why wouldn't you? It is a crazy person. The magic spells are probably toenail clippings and cat turds. Is that even worth the effort of stealing?
After being chased into an alley, Robbie tries to subdue the mugger, who appears to him as a monster with a charm. Then he casts a more efficient spell, stabbidious with a knifinities.
The crazy thing is the mugger didn't even take off when the crazy dude pulls a knife on him. He must have really thought that bag of magic spells was worth it.
Robbie comes to his senses, just like Detective Scott Turner from Turner and Hooch, and makes a frantic call to Kate, telling her he is in New York, thus rendering all the scenes of his friend trying to figure out where he is unnecessary. Kate gives Robbie the address of Jay Jay's mother and says she and the boys are on their way to pick him up.
Being the concerned friends they are, they apparently wait until morning before leaving. Also Jay Jay took his fucking bird with them. Really Jay Jay? Is that necessary?
Robbie, on his way to Jay Jay's parents house, sees a couple of street toughs who remind him of the other couple of street toughs from the night before so he does what any holy man would do in the situation, runs into a service tunnel in a subway and decide to explore the maze. Hurray more poorly lit scenes.
In the tunnel, Robbie encounters a troll, I mean homeless man. Robbie introduces himself as Pardu the holy man, to which the homeless guy responds, "Yeah, I'm the king of France," and then Pardu gets down on one new and calls him "Your majesty." That was funny. Why isn't the entire movie crazy Tom Hanks hanging out with a homeless dude that he thinks is a king?
The Scooby Gang gets to Jay Jay's place but the doorman says they haven't had any holy men today. They go inside and Jay Jay has an orgasm over his room that his mother has redecorated yet again. Do you guys really need to be wasting time on this? I am addressing both those who are in the movie and those who made it.
Jay Jay has a map of New York and has marked everywhere a holy man might go. After some arguing about where or where not Pardu would be hanging while on his quest they realize that hey, maybe he would go to the two biggest fucking twin towers in the city, The World Trade Center.
Robbie arrives at the World Trade Center, and his friends are soon there as well. It looks like there is going to be a dramatic show down, or well, I don't know how there could be a dramatic anything. They want to find Robbie and the movie depicts is as a frantic race against time, but I'm not sure how Robbie is in any immediate physical danger. At worse security is going to hassle him because he acts like he is stoned.
The friends, who suspect Robbie thinks he is Pardu and have based their entire search for him on that thought, see him walking on a different level then they are on and they keep yelling out to him, but calling him Robbie. Instead of Pardu, the name he will god damn answer to. Morons.
Robbie gets in an elevator right before them so they take a different one to the observation deck. There Robbie walks out an emergency exit to the roof. An alarm goes off and everybody ignores it. That's New York!
Jay Jay finally gets the bright idea to refer to Robbie as Pardu, which gets his attention. Pardu explains he is going to use his magic flying spell to jump off the building and fly to the great hall. Jay Jay says no way, Pardu doesn't have enough points to fly. Plus he is a holy man, why would a holy man have the ability to fly in the first place? Its nonsensical. Pardu tries to argue but Jay Jay invokes rule 0 which says he has absolute authority over the game. Referring to things as a game snaps Robbie out of his insanity and he starts crying. That's New York!
Cue the friendship song from the opening credits, its time for a group hug
Kate Jay Jay and Daniel are heading off someplace in Speed Buggy, possibly to solve more mysteries. Possibly to visit Robbie, (Bambi award winner Tom Hanks). Kate reveals that she is writing a book about what has happened to them. Way to profit from your friend's pain. We also find out that Jay Jay is in the director's program and Daniel is going into the software business. Looks like everything is working out just find for these young adults. All because they stopped role-playing. I bet Robbie is doing great as well.
Nope, turns out Robbie is still crazy. He thinks they are all their characters and he is still Pardu, the holy man in the tiny white shorts. The friends humor Robbie and take him for a walk in the evil woods, essentially playing the game with him one last time. Then Kate, in narration, says how the only monsters were the ones in Robbie's head and all they saw was the death of hope. What a downer.
Or is it?
Robbie's life sucked. His parents yelled at him. His brother ruined Halloween for him, and his erectile dysfunction made sex nothing but a humiliating experience (I assume) but now none of that matters. He isn't Robbie anymore but rather Pardu the holy man. Gone are the shameful memories of being friends with Jay Jay. They have been replaced with happy memories of encountering the king of France and stabbing a drug addict. Purdu is powerful, virtuous, and everything Robbie wanted to be. So essentially he has become what he has always wanted to be but without having to do any sort of work. Sure, we may say he is crazy, but I bet Pardu ends up being a hell of a lot happier in his life than any of us sane people.
So I guess that's the lesson, play role-playing games and eventually you'll grow out of it or go on to live in an elaborate fantasy world where you can do no wrong and there are plenty of scaring monsters waiting for you to vanquish.
In other words you become Rush Limbaugh. Oy!
So that's Mazes and Monsters. Does it hold up against the test of time? No. It was never good. Its not even a good movie to rift because nothing happens. Its boring and the few times there is some action the lighting is so bad you can't see it anyways. The concept is less far fetched then a movie with actual magic and the acting is worse than what could be done with real life LARPers. The only reason this movie has any distinction is the hallows of pop culture is because it features a young Tom Hanks before he was able to get powerhouse roles in films like The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch.
Overall I give Mazes and Monsters zero stars out of one trillion.