I won’t pretend to know much about Dungeons & Dragons other than it has been an immensely popular tabletop role-playing game for nearly five decades. That’s pretty much all I know about the game itself. I do know it has spawned several novels, some not-so-great feature films, a Saturday morning cartoon, and a number of video game spin-offs. To say it has impacted popular culture would be an understatement.
Still for me, seeing the name Dungeons & Dragons attached doesn’t exactly grab my attention. That was especially true when the new film “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” was announced. But this turned out to be one of those cases where the trailers and TV spots slowly won me over. Before long I had gone from “thanks but no thanks” to “show me where to buy my ticket”. So I checked it out. And wouldn’t you know it, “Honor Among Thieves” is one of the bigger surprises of the movie year so far. It’s not without issues, but it makes for a good time.
Directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, “Honor Among Thieves” is a fantasy action adventure comedy and a needed franchise reboot. And it’s no B-movie cheapie. The film has a reported $151 million budget which thankfully is put to good use – from its wonderful visual effects, exciting locations, fantastic action set pieces, and an immensely fun cast. That’s an overload of adjectives, but in these cases they fit.
What drew me most to the trailers was the comedy, and for the most part the movie delivers the humor. Maybe not as much as I had hoped, but it’s there. It’s just goofy enough to not take itself too seriously which is a good thing. And you’ll find some genuinely funny gags scattered all throughout the 134-minute runtime. But what can I say? I was hoping it would be even sillier. But that’s a small quibble for a movie that’s actually a lot of fun.
In the mystical land of Faerûn, a doltish bard named Edgin Darvis (Chris Pine) and an exiled Barbarian named Holga Kilgore (Michelle Rodriguez) are serving time in a remote icy prison for “grand larceny and skullduggery”. During what amounts to their parole hearing, we learn that Edgin’s wife was killed by a Red Wizard leaving him to raise their daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman). He befriended Holga and the two became thieves, along with their friends – a cut-rate sorcerer named Simon (Justice Smith) and a cheeky con-man named Forge (Hugh Grant). The foursome swipe from the wealthy with Edgin using his part of the spoils to help better Kira’s life.
But when one particular risky heist goes bad, Edgin and Holga are trapped while their cohorts escape. Before leaving, Edgin charges Forge with taking care of Kira and keeping her safe until he can return. That was two years ago. Now Edgin and Holga are pleading their case before the prison “parole” board. But before they can hear a verdict, the two bust out of jail and head back home so Edgin can reunite with Kira. But wouldn’t you know it, a lot has changed in two years.
Edgin discovers that Forge has become the Lord of Neverwinter, living lavishly and ruling with the help of the mysterious wizard named Sofina (Daisy Head). Even worse, since taking over as Kira’s guardian, Forge has turned her against Edgin, filling her head full of lies. So Edgin and Holga hatch a plan to rescue Kira, first reuniting with Simon and then adding a shape-shifting tiefling druid named Doric (Sophia Lillis) to their ranks. They’re even joined a dashing paladin named Xenk Yendar (a scene-stealing Regé-Jean Page who unfortunately leaves far too early).
Some may be wondering how much they need to know about Dungeons & Dragons in order to get “Honor Among Thieves”. I can say from personal experience – not much. The story (penned by Goldstein, Daley, and Michael Gilio) is pretty straightforward and easy to follow. I’m sure there are numerous nods and winks scattered throughout that fans of the game with pick up on. But they’re nothing that the uninitiated (like me) would see as egregious.
The performances are all spot-on starting with Chris Pine whose charisma allows him to be brazenly silly but also believably warm-hearted. Page is a lot of fun, right up until he vanishes. And Rodriguez, who’s no stranger to tough-girl roles, really shines. Then of course there’s Hugh Grant, so perfectly cast as the film’s roguish yet delightfully goofy antagonist. There’s even one particularly great cameo that everyone should enjoy.
Admittedly, while I liked “Honor Among Thieves”, I wasn’t as into its overall story as I wanted to be. That said, much of the enjoyment comes from simply hanging out with this ragtag group as they bop along to fantastical locales, encounter creatures of all kinds, and learn to work together in the process. Along the way we’re treated to some good laughs, some exciting action, and some fun camaraderie. It makes this a considerably more entertaining experience than I first expected. And it’s one worth catching on the big screen – where all its visual flourishes and flavor really stands out. “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is in theaters now.