DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: HONOR AMONG THIEVES
Starring: Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, and Hugh Grant
Directors: Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley
I’m not familiar with the lore of Dungeons & Dragons, not to mention that game adaptations don’t have a particularly strong track record, so to say my expectations for this film were low is apt. However, directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein were careful to keep things simple and not fall into the habit of taking the film too seriously. This all leads to an impressively funny movie with an entertaining cast (headlined by the welcome return of Chris Pine playing the role of charming idiot) and some terrific visuals. It’s only March, but Honor Among Thieves may just end up my surprise of the year.
To be perfectly honest, since I’ve never played the game and the trailers looked terrible in a way-too-goofy way, I had no real desire to see this movie. However, I can admit when I’m wrong, and much to my surprise, Dungeons & Dragons is an absolute blast. It’s like The Princess Bride sprinkled with a smidge of leftover grit from The Witcher. That said, to be clear, this is not a fantasy movie that happens to have jokes. It’s a straight action-comedy that happens to have dragons, and it generates several legitimate laugh-out-loud moments from both fully realized set pieces and throwaway one-liners.
I could go on and on about how Dungeons & Dragons‘ plot is filled with contrivances, conveniences, and wasted time. However, with that in mind, I really liked this movie because it’s just a dumb fun ride of adventure. I’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons, but that didn’t prevent me from enjoying the surprising amount of laughter or the cast that was clearly having as much fun as I was. I don’t think directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley set out to create a masterpiece, they just wanted to take an audience on a ride…and they truly succeeded in doing that.
Somehow defying all odds, Dungeons & Dragons manages to entertain and delight. For fans of the game, the lighthearted tone and feel manage to replicate the fun of a weekend session with friends while simultaneously not alienating those unfamiliar with the source material. Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez fully lean into the camp and humor inherent in such stories, with the rest of the party following suit to give audiences a quick-paced, rollicking romp. It's an all-ages fantasy that manages to feel cheesy yet genuine in all the right ways.
In Dungeons & Dragons, writers/directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein’s lifelong love for D&D is noticeable through the film’s amazing visuals, incredible world-building, kinetic action, and charming performances. But it’s the way the writing blends that love into a fantasy version of Whose Line is it Anyway? that makes it great. One fantastical set piece builds to the next great comedic line, leading into an unbelievable action sequence, and then…and then…and then… It leaves you loving every delightful aspect, and even some lackluster dramatic moments can’t hamper the wonder weaved through this hilarious, imaginative, and surprisingly fantastic film.
Dungeons & Dragons is likely to go down as one of the year’s biggest surprises, especially relative to expectations and its truly terrible marketing. Apart from a general lack of cohesion in its pacing and little emotional investment in the stakes of its story, this game adaptation from John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein largely works thanks to a sincere respect for the source material and a healthy dose of fun. It’s also surprisingly funny, with most of the humor landing exactly as intended, especially from Chris Pine, while Michelle Rodriguez kicks ass in the film’s unfortunately too-few action sequences.