Tom Hank does Dungeons & Dragons TV Movie Style
When his love of the role playing game "Mazes and Monster" got him kicked out of college Robbie Wheeling (Tom Hanks) promised his parents that he wouldn't let it happen again when the new year started at his new college. But it does as he meets fellow game players Daniel (David Wallace), Jay Jay (Chris Makepeace) and Kate (Wendy Crewson) who he starts dating. But then these four friends decide to take their game playing from the board and the dorm in to the real world as they head in to a series of caverns. And it is in the caverns some thing happens which draws them deeper and deeper in to the world of fantasy especially Robbie who starts having visions and hearing voices, commanding him to do things.
Tom Hanks in a TV Movie, that is what "Mazes and Monsters" is now, it is a look at the Oscar winning actor appearing not in his first movie but in his first lead role. And there is something quite nice about watching the uncomplicated performance of Tom Hanks who as Robbie is a role play fan and who ends up in a relationship with Kate. But having said that Hanks is actually outshone by Chris Makepeace and that is not down to acting skill but purely down to Makepeace's character having the most quirks, a penchant for whacky hats and so on.
Now beyond the appeal of "Mazes and Monsters" starring Tom Hanks in a TV Movie there is a side to the movie which might not be apparent to those who weren't over the age of 11 back in 1982. You see back in the early 80s there were some people who felt role playing games were dangerous, some people got addicted to them, took the playing too seriously and struggled to differentiate between reality and fantasy. So what this TV movie wanted to be was an attempt to highlight that there were dangers in RPG when those who enjoyed playing became too obsessed with it. In many a way it would be the equivalent of a TV movie made now about the dangers and addictive power of video games as they become people's whole lives.
The trouble with "Mazes and Monsters" is that it feels like a movie made by parents and so doesn't quite get the whole rpg "D&D" thing and instead comes across more interested in just highlighting the dangers of game addiction than anything else. It is a shame because whilst watching "Mazes and Monsters" I couldn't help but feel this could have been a great horror movie about a person who becomes too addicted to rpg rather than a public warning movie for those who fear their children are going to blur the line between reality and fantasy and end up killing someone by blurring the line.
What this all boils down to is that "Mazes and Monsters" is not only entertaining as an early Tom Hanks movie but also for those who remember how things kicked off in the 80s over the hazards of role playing games. Unfortunately if you don't remember back in 80s the parent groups who campaigned against the likes of "D&D" it loses something. But it is in partly for being wrong and bordering on the patronizing that "Mazes and Monsters" ends up entertaining.