Try your best to not be too put off by a movie with a title like Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (we don’t need the subtitle, thank you!). In what I hope becomes the surprise box office hit of this spring, the Dungeons & Dragons movie makes clever use of the IP it's been given and makes an adventure comedy that’s accessible to pretty much anyone. You don’t need to know anything beforehand regarding the endless lore and rules of the tabletop fantasy game it's based on, so go ahead and breathe a sigh of relief for that right there.
The best comparison I can make would be The Princess Bride, another fantasy comedy with a sharp yet goofy sense of humor. This movie adaptation of the world’s most recognizable role-playing game is often insufferably dumb and overly cheesy, but most of it ends up becoming a virtue rather than a hindrance. It’s self-aware but not snarky about it; in fact, it plays almost everything with genuine, refreshing sincerity. Dare I say a modern classic? That’s for the people to decide.
Dungeons & Dragons (the movie) comes from filmmaking duo Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, who are best known as writers on Horrible Bosses, Spider-Man: Homecoming and the upcoming The Flash, as well as directors of the hit 2018 comedy Game Night. The pair go big with the jokes more so than ever before, taking advantage of D&D’s fantastical medieval setting that’s filled with creatures, magic and archetypal characters with impossibly perfect teeth. Some of the gags will likely make the more cynical ones in the audience roll their eyes, but for every lame quip there’s a couple of genuine gut busters. Trust me when I say this’ll absolutely kill with a packed theater.
Plenty of credit goes to the cast as well. The story follows two close friends, a bard named Edgin (Chris Pine) and a barbarian named Holga (Michelle Rodriguez). They’re on a quest to rescue Edgin’s daughter (Chloe Coleman) and it involves a heist or two, so along the way they enlist the help of an unconfident sorcerer named Simon (Justice Smith) and a shapeshifting freedom fighter named Doric (Sophia Lillis). The misfit crew battle undead assassins, cross paths with a famous paladin (Regé-Jean Page), and yes, go through a dungeon and encounter a dragon.
The playful chemistry between everyone helps boost the film’s charm and their talent helps sell much of the campier aspects of its tone. Pine is an excellent leading man as always and it’s great to see Rodriguez’s usual ruggedness used in something a little less serious. The action is pretty great as well, with every beat both revealing character and being driven by it above all else. That’s the best kind of action in my book and Dungeons & Dragons is able to use that to craft some wildly fun and imaginative sequences.
It’s certainly not a perfect movie. Some awkward and at times abrupt editing choices might make you scratch your head. A couple of important plot points end up feeling far too underdeveloped as well. Namely, Edgin and Holga’s relationship with the former’s daughter, which most of the emotion of the film is meant to be hinged on. The whole thing is a bit too overstuffed for its own good, but it manages to make up for it with crowd-pleasing charm, lovable characters and just the right kind of energy for a comedy like this. Even if your D&D knowledge doesn’t go much further than Stranger Things, you might be surprised by how much you’ll enjoy this big screen adventure.
‘Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’ is now playing in theaters.