Movie Review: B Movie
By Andrew Biscoglia
For the inaugural edition of what some have already described as “an utterly useless” column, I think I should highlight the film that spearheaded what was arguably “an utterly useless” activist movement of the 1980s. Remember, we’re talking about a decade of American history that featured such timeless and important activist movements as Tom Selleck’s “Hands Across Hawaii” and Senator Kennedy’s “Stutterer’s of America Against Max Headroom.” (Okay, I made that last one up, but I bet a lot of people that stuttered hated that guy.) But this particular brand of activism is right at home next to these stalwart causes.
Seriously, this movie called attention to a “threat” that was about as “threatening” as a box of newborn kittens. Anyone who actually fell for this idiotic propaganda should be mercilessly laughed at for a good 15 minutes. (Except of course, my dear sweet mother… she was simply concerned about her children’s welfare.) And so with no further ado, I submit to my readers (all two of them…and I have a feeling that Mom might cancel her subscription after this one): "Mazes and Monsters" starring Tom Hanks.
Now keep in mind, this is not just your run of the mill bad movie… Some movies are bad because of the writing. Some movies are bad because of the acting. Some movies are bad because they are too preachy. But this film, folks – this one has it ALL! It kind of brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “Axis of Evil.” As a matter of fact, I have heard on good authority that to date, Tom Hanks has unsuccessfully spent nearly $300 billion to have it removed from his filmography. (Well, this movie and his role as the kung fu psychiatrist that tries to fight the Fonz on "Happy Days.") Anyway, let’s get to the movie.
Actually let’s play a game first. In this game, I say something and you say the first thing that pops into your mind. Ready?
You: French fries
Me: Ray Goff
You: I just lost my appetite.
And this is the part where I make my point…
Me: "Dungeons and Dragons"
You: Remember that weird kid in high school that got beat up by the freshmen girl with scoliosis?
That’s right folks. When we think of the typical “Dungeons and Dragons” guy, a lot of adjectives come to mind and none of them are appealing – unless maybe your name is Julia Montgomery (look it up). But for some reason, a group of mothers (mine included) were convinced that any child foolish enough to partake in this game would surely grow up to be the next Dee Snyder. (And this would entail a lot of adjectives that definitely do not describe a "Dungeons and Dragons" player.)
For those of you whom have spent the last 30 years in either Cuba or Jesup, Ga.; and as a result have never heard of D&D ("Dungeons and Dragons"), allow me to fill you in. D&D is a game that gave all of the nerds and geeks at any school in America an opportunity to sit around and commiserate about all of the swirlies, wedgies, "Kick Me" signs, and acne medication burns that they endured on a daily basis. While doing this, they pretended to be powerful wizards and warriors with very attractive female warriors and humanoids trying to gain their affe...
Sorry, I just lost my train of thought due to uncontrollable laughter.
Anyway, a group of concerned mothers thought that this type of play would lead to their children’s eventual adult life of occult-minded shenanigans. (Think, "Saw" meets Timothy McVeigh meets "Rosemary’s Baby" meets Ryan Seacrest.) They organized and began making efforts to ban the game. Unfortunately for the concerned mothers, this movement had trouble gaining traction. Most scholars agree that it had trouble for several reasons – primarily because it was just a stupid, stupid fear.
And now that we have the proper context, we can begin our review of the movie. "Mazes and Monsters" is based on a book that is based on an AP story that is based on a lie concocted by a private detective that is based on a concerned mother’s blaming of a game for her child’s depression. This is what your philosophy professor would have called circuitous logic.
Example: So if you mail in $5,000, we will send you $10,000!
Anyway, it’s about a group of four college sophomores who love playing the cleverly titled and oh-so subtle D&D euphemism, "Mazes and Monsters" (the producers attempted M&M, but Mars Candy would have none of that). Now, I know this aspect of the plot is going to be hard to swallow (after all, when I was a college sophomore, the cool kids always played D&D), but the kids all have their own unique problem “fitting in” at school. One of them is a burgeoning feminist, one of them apparently hates it when his mother redecorates his room, another (Hanks) has a bad home life, and the last one wishes (snicker) that the girls at school would like him for more than his bod…
Sorry, I lost control again.
As the movie progresses, we find out that Robbie (Hanks) is one screwed up kid. He has a girlfriend (a young Wendy Crewson) who wants to spend the night with him, but he asks her to leave so that he can spend the evening alone drawing a picture of a wizard with colorful block letters surrounding him. Really?
And yet it still gets worse. He (Hanks) begins to stay in character all of the time. (But not in the cool “DeNiro method acting” way, more in the sad “Fred Berry as Rerun from 'What’s Happening' making an appearance at the local swap meet for free chicken wings” way.) He eventually (WARNING: Plot Spoiler) decides to jump off of the World Trade Center in order to become a wizard, and his friends must stop him. I won’t go too far into the culminating intervention (frankly because I had stopped watching by this point), but let’s just say that I was hoping that his friends didn’t make it in time.
In spite of all of its flaws, "Mazes and Monsters" was well-received when it was released. In fact, it was so well-received that it became the catalyst for a little group that you may have heard of, MADD (Mothers Against Dungeons and Dragons).
And that…is the rest of the story.
Grade: C… as in “Cool it, Tom! Before the Fonz has to hit the jukebox.”
Okay, that last bit wasn’t funny. I know that MADD is a serious organization that should never ever under any circumstance be used to illicit a cheap laugh at the expense of D&D nerds. These dorks have been exploited enough…I mean, have you ever actually watched the Sci-Fi network?
Next Week: "Tron"
PRINTED IN THE APRIL 16, 2009 EDITION