DUBAI: Just when you think you’re done watching increasingly tangled blockbuster franchises that have long overstayed their welcome, along comes “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” an action-comedy caper based on the most popular tabletop role-playing game ever, upending all your misgivings.
Yes, it’s got the familiar Marvel brand of humor down to a pat with funny zings and quips flying at you every minute of its over two-hour-long runtime, but in this movie, it works in its favor.
For anyone familiar with playing Dungeons & Dragons, a game where friends get together to tell fantastical stories with the help of complex rules and a lot of odd-shaped dice, you’ll know that humor and fun are baked into its very DNA.
You could be fighting the scariest monster or playacting a tragic backstory, but, above the table, you’re still goofing off with your friends while stuffing your face with snacks.
Directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein show that they both recognize and respect this inherent quality of the game and turn the dial to 11 on it, and, voila, you have a perfect adaptation that follows a motley crew of almost-heroes who need to steal a powerful artifact from an evil wizard to save the world.
But what about the people who’ve never played D&D, you ask? If you don’t know your Magic Missile from your Misty Step or your Mordenkainen from your Elminster, we’re happy to report that “Honor Among Thieves” still works for you.
While fans will no doubt spend the length of the movie trying to spot spells and parse through lore drops, the movie stands on its two feet, even if the viewer can make no meaningful connection to a name like Baldur’s Gate (a famous campaign setting in the game, which has also spawned several video games).
This is mostly thanks to the film’s cast, who form the scrappy little adventuring party of “Honor Among Thieves.” The band of misfits is led by Chris Pine’s charismatic bard, Edgin. A better casting choice could not have been made for this role, and Pine turns on his lovable allure to good effect.
Michelle Rodriguez is the muscle of the group, as the formidable barbarian Holga. And bringing up the rear of the group are Simon, the sorcerer with self-esteem issues, played to perfection by Justice Smith, and Doric, the tiefling druid who can wildshape herself into both cute woodland creatures as well as massive monstrosities, played by Sophia Lillis.
But, as a surprise to probably no one, “Bridgerton” breakout star Rege-Jean Page is the scene-stealer of this movie as the righteous paladin Xenk. His guileless, honorable conduct and bravery serve as a foil to the party’s shenanigans.
And rounding out the cast is Hugh Grant who looks like he’s having the most fun playing Forge Fitzwilliam, the current smarmy leader of Neverwinter.
Apart from the stellar cast, the film deals with the concept of found family in a way that feels fresh and real. Especially the friendship between Pine’s Edgin and Rodriguez’s Holga is a unique take on platonic relationships that viewers might appreciate and that feels genuinely lived-in and authentic.
And that’s it, really. If you’re looking for hijinks, laughter and feel-good vibes that will follow you long after you’ve left the theater, “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is for you.