Review Legacy Revision Candidate

Mazes and Monsters (1982)

Of all the moral panics from the last half century, Dungeons and Dragons is one of the most inexplicable to me. As far as I can tell from a brief Wikipedia dive, two kids who happened to play D&D were involved in tragic deaths about ten years apart. And that’s it. It makes as much sense as demonizing toaster ovens. (Though I suppose toaster ovens don’t involve pretending to be elves and rolling dice to kill imaginary orcs.)

Mazes and Monsters — the TV movie starring vehicle for a young Tom Hanks (his first starring role) — turns that D&D panic into a self-serious psychodrama. Its complete lack of understanding of D&D and LARPing is hilarious. The movie makes the game seem like a satanic cabal, with candle-lit rooms and hoods and half-whispered fantasy words.

The production values are slightly better than I would have expected for a TV movie, and the cast is surprisingly engaging. But that’s a pretty low bar; the premise and script are completely ludicrous.

The movie’s most memorable moments are so-bad-its-good hamminess. Hanks is delightful as someone going through a psychotic episode. I’m not sure he consciously knows that this material is camp, but it’s over-the-top bliss nonetheless.

I won’t sugar-coat it: This is a bad movie, with long boring stretches and an off-putting air of self-righteousness. But the moments of absurdity — goofy fantasy costumes, a World Trade Center suicide attempt, Hanks cry-shouting about a dead brother — have some gonzo charm.

Is It Good?

Not Good (2/8)

Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.

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