Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Leans into Nerddom, Nostalgia and Humor for an Epic Adventure
I’m sure a lot of people who review this latest attempt at a Dungeons & Dragons movie are going to feel the need to tell you their history with the game, if any. I’ve lived a D&D-adjacent life since junior high, but I’ve never felt the need to dive in and commit to a campaign, so many of the game-specific references in Honor Among Thieves went right the hell over my head. That being said, the film itself is actually loose, quite entertaining, and offers enough hints as to the appeal of the game that you almost want to learn more about the ins and outs of D&D without becoming a recluse within it.
From the directing team of John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein (Date Night, the Vacation reboot), Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves follows an unlikely band of adventurers (actually, they’re pretty likely) who head out on a quest to retrieve a lost relic so that their de facto leader, the master thief Edgin (Chris Pine) can bring his late wife back from the dead. He’s motivated to do this partly because his misses her and partly for the sake of his young daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman), who spent many years growing up without either parent while her father was in prison. Other folks on the quest include warrior woman Helga (Michelle Rodriguez), the fledgling sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith), the changeling Doric (Sophia Lillis, from It and Sharp Objects), and sometimes a very knowledgable soldier named Xenk (Regé-Jean Page).
The entire affair is quite episodic. Challenges must be worked through, obstacles overcome, and monstrous forces defeated. But all of that seriousness is countered with a whimsical spirit, humor, and action that reminded me of films from the late 1980s and early 1990s. On paper, the stakes may be high, but they feel minimal because so few of the characters take things seriously. Pine’s roguish personality really pushes through all things, while Rodriguez’s self-seriousness is so out in front that it’s almost the funniest thing in the film.
Tthe villainous combination of Hugh Grant’s Forge (once a member of the band of thieves that Edgin leads) and the red wizard Sofina (Daisy Head), who are working together but also have their own agendas as agents of chaos, is unstoppable. I’ve said this before, but despite his gaining popularity as a romantic lead, Grant seems born to play villains (but never the heavy); he delights in making people’s lives miserable but he’s happiest when people working for him do his dirty work (“I don’t want to see you die. Which is why I’m leaving the room now.”). In addition, the monster creations are a mix of familiar and original. We know there’s going to be a dragon in this movie, but a heavyset one that can’t really fly, I was not expecting.
If you squint (not really), you can see parts of this movie borrowing heavily from The Lord of the Rings movies, as well as superhero fare like The Avengers, with Pine (being the only Chris in Hollywood not in a Marvel movie) embodying a combination of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. But at its core, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is an adventure ride with laughs and something of a heart, as Edgin tries desperately to not just keep his daughter out of harm’s way, but to regain her respect. Loyalties are tested, monsters are slain, and schemes are uncovered, all in the name of fun. This is an easy movie to like, but also fairly easy to forget an hour after you’ve seen it—except for one of the weirdest and most memorable cameos you’re likely to see this year in the form of an Hola’s old flame. Trust me on this one, it’s a doozy.
The film is now playing in theaters.
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