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With: Rob Morrow, Laura Linney, Craig Sheffer, Rose Gregorio, Robert Hogan, Gia Carides, Betsy Aidem
Written by: Rob Morrow, Bradley White, Nicole Burdette
Directed by: Rob Morrow
MPAA Rating: R for language and nudity
Running Time: 97
Date: 10/10/2000

Maze (2001)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Dead-end 'Maze'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

You just never know where the next "chick flick" is going to come from. It turns out Rob Morrow, the goofy actor from "Northern Exposure" and Robert Redford's Quiz Show, has a soft, squishy side that he's not afraid to show on camera; Maze marks his feature debut as a writer and director, and he's made a movie that both Oprah and Hallmark would be proud to stamp with their seal of approval. Maze is the symbolic last name of the movie's hero (played by Morrow), a New York artist suffering from Tourette's syndrome. Lyle Maze has only two friends: a couple played by Craig Sheffer and Laura Linney. Mike (Sheffer) is a liberal doctor who's always flitting off to care for deprived Third World dwellers, and Callie (Linney) is a fashion photographer who doesn't ever seem to go to work after the movie's first 10 minutes. Callie gets pregnant just as Mike runs off for a seven-month sojourn somewhere with the aid organization Doctors Without Borders, and Lyle finds himself stuck in the middle. Callie is so angry that she didn't even tell Mike that he was going to be a father. Now, if a baby develops for nine months and it apparently takes two months for Callie to realize she's pregnant, that means Mike can return from his seven-month trip conveniently at the exact moment the baby is born. What a break for the storytellers! Anyway, while Mike is gone, Lyle and Callie hang out a lot, and she poses -- nude -- for him to paint and sculpt. It goes without saying that he starts to fall in love with her, and he feels bad about it. He tries to go on a date with another woman but (of course) spills a drink all over her. (There's even the cliche where he runs uncontrollably down the New York streets with the camera tracking alongside him, just like Woody Allen in Manhattan.) Meanwhile, his Tourette's keeps kicking in, resulting in lots of "hoo" and "hah" type noises, while Morrow the director keeps intercutting shaky video shots of Lyle's screwed-up point of view.

Maze is all very silly and mushy, but I have to give it points because my wife (who bravely watched it with me) really liked it. And I confess that Linney hits a home run with this role. It's the kind of role that Meryl Streep would have played in the 1980s, with lots of worrying and stressing and trying to figure out stuff, and Linney proves she's in the same league with that great actress. Morrow, however, uses Tourette's the same way Dustin Hoffman used autism in Rain Man -- as a show-offy gimmick full of actor tricks. He probably gets the disease down realistically, but he buries his character in so many ticks that Lyle fails to emerge as anyone real. I consider myself pretty open-minded about movies, but I just can't get my head around film cliches like Maze. Put to any standard critical test, they just fall apart like a sob-worn tissue. Where the horror film and the sci-fi film are aware of their place in the world and can be subversive, the chick flick seems unaware that it's a genre -- it tries to pass as a regular movie without embracing its own silly nature. If my wife loved Maze, presumably other women (and sensitive men) will, too. So I'll warn away the non-softies and recommend Maze to those who like chick-flicks -- and to guys who want to win points for suggesting it as a date movie. It's only about 90 minutes, and you can always close your eyes and try to listen in on the action movie playing next door.

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