Directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (Game Night) — Screenplay/Story by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Michael Gilio, and Chris McKay.
It was only a matter of time before Hollywood was going to give Dungeons and Dragons another try as a major motion picture given the massive success of Stranger Things, which, I feel, has helped to popularize the tabletop role-playing game yet again. That’s right, I do remember watching the woeful 2000s Courtney Solomon film Dungeons and Dragons a couple of times way back when (it’s crazy to think that The Fellowship of the Ring was released only a single year later). The 2000s D&D film is as bad as its reputation would have you believe, but it does have Jeremy Irons and Marlon Wayans, so I guess that’s something. The difference between the film from 2000 and this year’s Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves from John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein is night and day. Honor Among Thieves genuinely is a great time at the movies.
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves follows bard Edgin Darvis (played by Chris Pine) and barbarian Holga Kilgore (played by Michelle Rodriguez) as they break out of prison to reconnect with Edgin’s daughter, who they later learn now lives with rogue Forge Fitzwilliam (played by Hugh Grant), an old partner of theirs. Fitzwilliam has convinced Edgjn’s daughter that her father is selfish and greedy, and he has teamed up with a powerful Red Wizard. To stop Fitzwilliam, Holga and Edgin must recruit a band of misfits that will ultimately also include a sorcerer and a tiefling druid.
Though the title is a bit of a mouthful, Honor Among Thieves is a real charmer that captures the magic of the fantasy, the appropriate group mentality of the role-playing game (there’s almost a Wizard of Oz-esque group development arc here), and, on top of those elements, not only is the action mostly solid, it is also genuinely funny with memorable gags (my personal favorite is the sequence in which they need to speak with the dead). I can’t say that I’m a huge D&D player at all, but there were even references that I caught, which makes me believe that this film treats the source material with respect.
I think it treats the material with a lot of love, but the writers and directors thankfully don’t fall into the trap of treating the game with too much seriousness. Instead, the directors of Game Night (the studio lucked out by rolling their 20-sided die and getting them to take the steering wheel for the adaptation) have a lot of fun with the world. Naysayers may say that it is too much like a Marvel movie in its type of comedy, but even if they’ve relied slightly on that formula, they’ve done so to good effect because this film is a hoot and a charmer. I think it’s at its best when it’s either deliberately silly or when it relies on Chris Pine’s sincere leading man performance (he and Hugh Grant’s performances are perfectly tuned, whereas Rodriguez is sometimes a little bit too flat in her line delivery, though one may argue that such stoicism is intentional, and Justice Smith tries out a British accent that I never bought).
I also think the creature effects are quite good. There are some really neat practical effects used to bring certain types of animalistic characters to life, but, of course, there are also these CG-reliant creatures — such as a cute chubby dragon — that show up. Not all of the CGI is as convincing as you would maybe want it to be, but it is more than merely serviceable. Personally, I had more of an issue with the length of the film, as I thought it felt a little bit too long.
The very charming Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is another hit from Game Night directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who have a lot of fun with the material all the while showing a lot of affection for it. It is definitely more a fantasy-genre take on Guardians of the Galaxy than a D&D take on Lord of the Rings, but, nevertheless, it is a genuinely entertaining potential franchise starter that should be a bonafide hit with audiences everywhere.
7.9 out of 10
– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.
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