In a world where there are several podcasts centered around stories being told through the popular Wizards of the Coast game, Dungeons & Dragons, it shouldn’t be so surprising that a movie doing the same thing works. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves follows a now tried-and-true formula for integrated D&D content, which is to have interesting characters, not to get too hung up on gameplay mechanics, and to include enough of the game to make it feel like high fantasy, while also not taking it too seriously. Games are fun and should have stakes. The film directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein weave together these elements to great effect.
For this journey, Chris Pine plays Edgin Darvis, who hopes to be released from prison with his partner in crime: Holga Kilgore, played by Michelle Rodriguez. His sole focus is returning to his daughter, Kira, and using a tablet to revive his dead wife, thus reconnecting the family he has lost. Of course, nothing is ever easy, and at every turn, a new obstacle stands between Edgin and his dream. A cavalcade of characters with their own goal becomes entwined into this journey with a variety of D&D races, classes, and realms, which will make some cheer and leave others scratching their heads.
The stakes are always extremely clear, and the character motivations are obvious. Add in an incredible cast who seem to be having a blast in this fantasy world, and you’ve got a good time on your hands. Hugh Grant continues to demonstrate his ability to charm audiences while being a source of constant frustration for the protagonists. Pine and Rodriguez have great chemistry, and the comedy they bring kept a smile on the faces of everyone in my screening. Rege-Jean Page, Justice Smith, and Sophia Lillis round out the core group to great effect. Each character embarks on their own journey, and it is always understood why they are involved in the story.
Of course, there is a lot of explanation that needs to be fed to the audience, as the movie needs to work for D&D enthusiasts and general crowds. However, this feels like sitting at a table with a group of friends playing the game. The dungeon master must fill in most information, and the only way to do so is to give detailed exposition. There is a moment in the film where a character has to outline an extremely complex puzzle to the party. It is played for comedy, and the joke lands well – but for those who have played the game, it’ll feel familiar while still being funny. Some puzzles or stories in D&D are unnecessarily complicated or require so much detail that it feels like you’ve got to take excessive notes.
Much like the podcasts that use the world of D&D, this feels like a visualization of someone’s tabletop campaign. Things go wrong, characters make odd choices, and things constantly go awry when it seems like they couldn’t possibly fail. Anyone who has leveled up a character to peak performance, only to roll a 1 on their D20, knows the frustration that chance offers. There is a wealth of comedy to mine in this world, and the film seems to have found an adequate vein.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is in theaters everywhere on March 31.
Rating: Must See