Review by Adam Donato
Board game movies are a thing. Anything to slap brand recognition on a generic blockbuster. I can’t wait for the Wonder Bread movie! Anyways, forget everything about the Dungeons & Dragons movie from 2000. Riding off their success making Game Night, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein are back in the directors' chairs for this new fantasy epic. With a cast of franchise regulars, will Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves have the pull to make it the blockbuster success Paramount wants it to be?
Considering Daley and Goldstein have only made studio comedies, the action here is quite the standout. While the cinematography and special effects are lacking throughout the movie, there’s several action sequences that are worth the price of admission. One of the ways the action stays fresh is due to the characters having different abilities — specifically Sophia Lillis’s character as she can shapeshift into animals both real and fantastical. The large dragon heavily featured in the promotional material serves for a surprisingly fresh sequence. Also, there’s a great amount of practical creatures featured in the film. This goes a long way to making the world feel lived in.
Guardians of the Galaxy was quite the risk of a concept, but what helped it work was the likable family that was formed out of these criminals. While it’s also not the most original story, it thrives thanks to its charm and personality. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves feels like the producer assigned someone to make a fantasy version of Guardians of the Galaxy. While Daley and Goldstein try to infuse some of their comedic personality, there’s several archetypes that feel too close to characters like Star Lord and Drax. Like most movies, this movie feels like an amalgamation of aspects from other more popular movies who did it better. It functions and will probably work for casual audiences, but this is clearly nobody’s passion project. The movie ditches the dice rolling and just tells a standard fantasy quest tale. Characters need to band together to find the MacGuffin so they can stop the bad guy from destroying the world.
Chris Pine does a great job at playing Chris Pine. This is a similar role to James T. Kirk in the J.J. Abrams Star Trek films. Michelle Rodriguez is her typical badass self and her dry joke delivery works well. Justice Smith is the same annoying nerd he always plays. Sophia Lillis, while thriving in the action scenes, holds little emotional weight as her deal is that she doesn’t trust humans and Smith’s nerd boy is trying to court her. Rege-Jean Page of Bridgerton fame has a surprisingly small role as the handsome Boy Scout type. Hugh Grant plays a pathetic weasel version of his typical self while acting as the main antagonist of the film. Nobody acts in this movie. All of the actors showed up and played themselves.
While Scream, Creed, Shazam, and John Wick have all had previous movies recently, the Dungeons & Dragons franchise hasn’t seen the big screen in over two decades so at least it feels a little new. Hopefully Shazam! Fury of the Gods didn't quench fantasy lovers' thirst for dragons and this movie sees some success because it’s better than that sequel. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is generally fun and funny throughout. While it’s not an inspired piece of cinema like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s trying hard enough to make it worth your time at the theater.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves opens in theaters on March 31.