Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is the best movie ever based on the popular role-playing game. Of course, that’s an extremely low bar, given there was only one other, 2000’s Jeremy Irons-starring Dungeons & Dragons, which is arguably one of the worst films ever made. Despite the lack of stiff competition, this new picture makes the wise choice to go a comedic route. All the expected elements – magic spells, mythical creatures, creepy castles, etc. – are present, combined not to be a direct take on D&D adventures, but to replicate the fun of playing the game with friends.

Edgin Darvis (Chris Pine) is a man on a mission. His wife was murdered by a sinister group of Red Wizards. In an attempt to steal an artifact with the power to bring her back to life, he and cohort Holga Kilgore (Michelle Rodriguez) were caught and imprisoned. The other member of their team, con man Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant), took care of his daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman) in the interim. Now that he’s out, Edgin wants to reunite with Kira and finally reanimate his wife.

Surprises await. Forge has unexpectedly become the Lord of a kingdom called Neverwinter. He’s lied to Kira, telling her that Edgin abandoned her. Worse, he has no intention of surrendering the girl. Edgin and Holga team up with low-level sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith), shapeshifter Doric (Sophia Lillis), and knight Xenk (Rege-Jean Page) to launch a rescue mission. Part of that entails retrieving a magic helmet that will allow them to break through the airtight security system in Forge’s vault. All sorts of dangers present themselves in the process.

Sword and sorcery movies often tend to be on the serious side, building complicated worlds and indulging in minutia. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves takes a different path. It never mocks what D&D fans love about the game. It does, however, bring humor and levity to it. Edgin is almost like a fantasy universe Bill Murray, dropping hilarious deadpan wisecracks in response to the perils he and his teammates face. Comedy also arises from Simon’s unimpressive spells (he can conjure a fresh-cut grass smell) and Holga’s no-nonsense toughness. These are appealing characters specifically because they aren’t the garden variety stiffs we usually get in this genre. Watching them interact offers some very big laughs.

Action scenes aren’t necessarily intended to be funny, although they do have an inventive, offbeat quality that’s really entertaining. The best of them finds the characters running through an endless maze while being chased by a beast that looks like a black panther with Venus fly traps stretching out from behind its head. A cool chase scene has Doric turning into various animals to escape her would-be captors. Writers/directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein previously made the uproarious Game Night. As in that film, they pleasingly balance action with silliness.

All the actors give witty performances, and the visual effects used to bring this world to life are done extremely well. The story builds to a finale that any attentive viewer will see coming a mile away, not that it matters too much since it works. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves doesn’t aspire to be anything other than a big, goofy romp. And that’s exactly what it is. Even if you’ve never rolled a 12-sided die or picked up a campaign book, you can enjoy the movie’s nonstop merriment.

out of four

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is rated PG-13 for fantasy action/violence and some language. The running time is 2 hours and 14 minutes.