PLOT: A thief and his team find themselves on an epic quest, one putting him in search of his daughter. Monsters, mayhem, and more ensue – with a healthy dose of humor.
REVIEW: In this year of sequels, we have something a little different but very familiar to many. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, directed by John Francis Daley (who you may remember from Freaks & Geeks) and Jonathan Goldstein, is another big-screen adaptation of the popular interactive game. The last time a D&D movie played in the cinema was the less-than-stellar 2000 feature starring Justin Whalin and Jeremy Irons, which made little of an impression. It certainly didn’t meet the expectations of critics or audiences. At all. The upcoming film stars Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez as Edgin and Holga, hapless thieves on a desperate journey. Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, Rege-Jean Page, and Hugh Grant join the two in this light-hearted – and really fun – action adventure.
Edgin (Pine) and Holga (Rodriguez) are partners in crime. Once upon a time, they were part of a lively group of thieves who worked together, but the two found that their old pal Forge (Grant) had betrayed them in a big way. The two make for a daring prison escape and attempt to go after Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman), whom Forge has convinced that her father abandoned her for treasures. Instead of just watching over the girl, Forge has conned his way into power, yet only for his greedy intent. In hopes of taking sweet revenge on the villain, Edgin convinces Simon (Smith), Doric (Lillis), and Xenk (Page) – all with character traits familiar to D&D players – to ride out and rescue Kira, plus take all the riches they can from the crooked Forge.
My experience with D&D is quite limited, but it’s impossible not to go into this film wondering how well the filmmakers capture the magic of the game. While they continually say imagination can be far more vivid than a movie adaptation, the latest feature satisfactorily brings the game’s energy to cinematic life. And for a just over two-hour flick, it stays within its welcome. The pacing and the energy run throughout, making for an engaging watch. Even still, the editing and some sequences don’t fully work. I seem to remember a moment or two where I was wondering what the hell just happened in terms of cuts. It was occasionally messy, but that can sometimes work regarding the spirit of this story.
The best part of this adaptation is the cast of merry thieves. Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriquez are delightful together. Every single scene with the two brings on the fun. Pine’s goofy leading man who constantly relies on his far more capable Rodriguez works in spades. And it certainly helps that Ms. Rodriguez is so utterly convincing when kicking big guys’ asses. Her fight sequences are terrific, and Mr. Pine’s comic relief during them is also a blast. These two are so good; I’d love to see another film on their chemistry alone.
In addition to Pine and Rodriquez, the remaining Dungeons & Dragons cast members are incredibly engaging. Hugh Grant should play more villains after his brilliant work in Paddington 2 and this. The actor is charismatic in this type of role. Grant portrays the very definition of a smooth criminal with a little smug humor. In addition, the trio of talent that joins Edgin and Holga are all delightful. Rege-Jean Page, Justice Smith, and Sophia Lillis beautifully round out the merry band of thieves. All the actors are terrific here as they deal with each other and the fantastical world they are in. And Rege-Jean Page is one of the most charismatic fellas you’ll see on-screen this year.
The magical element of D&D is all here. The creatures on-screen all represent the magic beasts that players worldwide should be familiar with. It also helps that the effects are impressive enough, especially considering the humorous element. It’s hard to bring this kind of humor into a period adventure without risking being shlocky or overtly silly. Yet both Daley and Goldstein seem to understand the nature of Dungeons & Dragons. The fantasy and comedic elements are impressive enough to hope this film may lead to a refreshing new franchise.
Dungeons & Dragons is far more fun than I’d anticipated. And while it may not be perfect, the excellent cast and the charming script make it one of the most cheerful early surprises of 2023. It’s funny, adventurous, entertaining, and does a good enough job of creating a world worthy of revisiting in a sequel. I wonder if those who make D&D a massive part of their lives will respond even more to the film. Watching Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, and the rest of this cast made this a pleasant moviegoing experience. It’s the kind of flick where you can enjoy popcorn and soda with a little fantasy-driven action, humor, and even a bit of sweetness on the big screen before you, thanks to this lively cast and script.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/dungeons-dragons-honor-among-thieves-review/