Rona Jaffe's Mazes And Monsters

  • 1982
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

This excruciating CBS telefilm, exploiting the then-newsy topic of teens immersed in Dungeons & Dragons and other medieval-fantasy role playing games, is of interest only for future star Tom Hanks in his first leading role, and for a climax filmed on location at the World Trade Center's Twin Towers. Hanks plays college student Robbie Wheeling, who left Tufts...read more

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Reviewed by Frank Lovece
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This excruciating CBS telefilm, exploiting the then-newsy topic of teens immersed in Dungeons & Dragons and other medieval-fantasy role playing games, is of interest only for future star Tom Hanks in his first leading role, and for a climax filmed on location at the World Trade Center's Twin Towers. Hanks plays college student Robbie Wheeling, who left Tufts University in disgrace after his addiction to the game Mazes and Monsters killed his grades. Now enrolled at generic Grant University, he hooks up with three fellow M&Mers: wannabe novelist Kate Finch (Wendy Crewson); 16-year-old sophomore Jay Jay Brockway (Chris Makepeace), a kid genius with an IQ of 190 and a pet mynah named Merlin; and bland, male-model type Daniel (David Wallace), a most unlikely gamer who pouts because girls only like him for his looks. The three guys come from money, while Kate wants to be a novelist, a professional yarn spinner, the implication being that all four have already been living fantasy lives divorced from the real world. After many nights of playing M&M on a board, Jay Jay suggests they take their role playing a step further, and act out the game inside the nearby closed-down Pequod Caverns. Kate dresses as dowdy warrior-woman Glacia, Daniel as adventurer Nimble, Robbie as holy man Pardu and Jay Jay as "the cleverest of all sprites," Frelich. It's all a geek's paradise until Robbie starts hallucinating that "Gorvil," a fearsome fantasy monster, is real. (The creature is played by lanky Kevin Peter Hall, who spent most of his career costumed as the title monsters of PREDATOR, HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS and other films.) Robbie eventually becomes subsumed by his fantasy character, and goes on a quest for "The Great Hall" (his older brother, a runaway who was never found) at "The Two Towers" — not J.R.R.Tolkein's, but the World Trade Center (a conceit which, post 9/11, is eerie in a way that was never intended). Hanks, fresh off TV's Bosom Buddies and in his first real movie role after a blink-and-miss-him bit in HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE, is extremely solid and promising, though Wallace and the whiny Makepeace are as horribly stilted as the direction. The movie's pace make chess feel like the Daytona 500, what with endless padding in the form of actors walking through the caverns and getting in and out of cars. A laughable time capsule, MAZES AND MONSTERS is a role player's REEFER MADNESS, depicting games played amid occult settings and adults talking soberly about this new danger to kids. Based on the 1981 novel Mazes and Monsters by best-selling author Jaffe, who gets her name in the onscreen title, the story appears to mimic the real-life case of James Dallas Egbert II, a genius teen who ran away from Michigan State University for several weeks in 1979, leading to a media circus that widely and erroneously called his absence a Dungeons & Dragons-related suicide.

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  • Released: 1982
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: This excruciating CBS telefilm, exploiting the then-newsy topic of teens immersed in Dungeons & Dragons and other medieval-fantasy role playing games, is of interest only for future star Tom Hanks in his first leading role, and for a climax filmed on locat… (more)

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