"The Maze Runner" isn't a particularly funny movie. But the dystopian thriller, based on a YA novel by the same name, may make you laugh unintentionally, if, like this viewer, you're forgiving of genre tropes.
Told through the eyes of Thomas (Dylan O'Brien), "The Maze Runner" follows a group of teenage boys sent to live in a giant field, The Glade, which surrounded by a maze. Their memories have been erased by a mysterious overlord, but they come with one purpose: survive. It's "Lord of the Flies" meets "The Hunger Games," with a similar formula. The boys, known as Gladers, have rules and regulations meant to keep them alive, but Thomas' arrival -- and the curiosity he brings with him -- changes all that. When another Glader named Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) is sent earlier than expected, all hell breaks loose and the Gladers must immediately find a way out of the maze.
O'Brien (known for "Teen Wolf") nails the bewildered but brave teenager role, but even his performance can't shake a snoozy and muddled plot. We're presented with dozens of questions, half as many answers and only one female character for most of the film. Fans of the book will miss some of the undercurrents, mainly Thomas and Teresa's telepathy, and the pacing, since the film puts Thomas in the Glade for just a few days.
Author James Dashner gave the film its climax and finale (spoilers ahead), and the cast makes the best of the clunky ending, which nicely tees up a sequel, "The Scorch Trials." (That film is already in development.) Nevertheless, "The Maze Runner" is a good time, full of worthy action scenes and adolescent jest. Forget that Thomas and the surviving Gladers are now entrusted to save the world from a "scorched Earth." Here are all the times you'll unexpectedly laugh while watching "The Maze Runner."
When Thomas spits out Glader alcohol.
Whiskey made by teenagers trapped inside of a maze sounds like a terrible idea. Thomas realized this as soon as he took a sip from Newt's Mason jar.
When Teresa comes out of the box.
It's a girl! WICKED, the scientific organization who controls the Maze, sends Teresa up in the box with a cryptic note, "She's the last one ever." But she's also the first girl, and, unsurprisingly, everyone is shocked. Teresa opens her eyes, looks directly at Thomas and yells, "THOMAS!" Then she passes out while all the Gladers stare at him. WTF, Thomas? The whole theater giggled.
When Teresa stabs Alby with the Griever antidote.
Alby, recently stung by one of the maze monsters known as Grievers, recognizes Thomas and instantly realizes he was somehow involved in the maze's creation. As he lunges towards Thomas, the other Gladers hold him down. Teresa has no idea if the mysterious syringe she came to the Glade with contains a cure, but -- STAB! -- she jabs him with the mystery medicine. Bravo, Teresa, you brave psycho/nurse.
When Chuck says, "Girls are awesome."
These boys don't remember having any contact with girls. So, when Teresa wakes up after falling unconscious, she does what any terrified girl would do: She pelts the boys with rocks from a tree house. Chuck's enamored.
When WICKED leader Ava Paige shoots herself in the head.
Because, JUST KIDDING, she's not dead! A few minutes later, Paige (Patricia Clarkson) reveals herself to be alive, well and very excited to move into Phase 2. Life is terrible, kids, and freedom is fake.
"The Maze Runner" hits theaters Sept. 19.