Bad Movie Club: Mazes and Monsters

1982 Tom Hanks movie

Bad Movie Rating: 2/5 (Fred: 2/5; Johnny: 3/5; Josh: 2/5)

Rating: 5/20

Plot: College kids playing a Dungeons and Dragons type role-playing game take it to the next level, a level involving fake skeletons and caves. Their newest player begins to confuse fantasy with reality.

This movie is the second worst thing to ever happen to the World Trade Center.

This was our club's first experience with Tom Hanks. It's his second movie, and although the Tom Hanks charm is still present, the performance is not up to his usual standards. Of course, he doesn't have a lot to work with. The script does him no favors, and I thought there were a lot of lines he trudged through where you could just tell he didn't quite believe in what he was saying. The movie's best two moments involve what I'll call the Tom Hanks Whining Voice which you would know if you heard it. Sheriff Woody uses it when he and Buzz don't quite make it onto the moving truck near the end of Toy Story. He first uses it in a phone booth when he's talking about how he might have killed somebody, and then it happens again while he's trying to fly off the World Trade Center because he has spells. That scene is so deliriously awful, almost too good to be true. You get mawkish music, terrible acting and even worse writing, and a group hug.

The weirdest thing about the movie is not Tom Hanks' character though. He's probably supposed to be the weirdest because he's the one who, you know, goes nuts. But the guy we thought was supposed to be the main character--Jay Jay Brockway played by Chris Makepeace who was Rudy in Meatballs--but then turned out to not be the main character had the strangest stink on him. He had a talking bird who claimed birds can't talk, he had the most confusing collection of hats you'll ever see, and he was at the center of a suicide tangent that ended up going nowhere. Oh, and his mother kept remodeling his room. I think some of that--or maybe all of it, including the conversation he has with his bird about killing himself--was all there for comic relief.

The funniest thing about this is probably the naive look at role-playing games. This is clearly written by somebody who has no experience with D&D. Hell, I'm not even sure this is written by somebody who has experience with Chutes and Ladders. It seems to serve as a warning to parents about the dangers of these kinds of games. Along with drugs, junkies putting hypodermic needs in change slots of pop machines, and communism, role-playing games and Satan were the scariest parts of the 1980s, and this movie is clearly trying to feed off that parental fear. And thankfully, it gets almost absolutely nothing right other than the game using dice. It takes everything to the extreme so that Tom Hanks' character starts to remind you of that guy who is wildly playing the piano in Reefer Madness. It's the fun type of wild propaganda that could only come from the 1980s.

If you enjoy performances by famous, Oscar-winning performers before they became famous, this is a good place to look. Or, you could just watch this scene and say you've watched enough.

And don't act surprise when you see the posters below. You should have guessed that this was going to happen:

He has spells.

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