Review – Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)

By Kevin Muller

The classic board game has been a staple in people’s lives for over fifty years. Even Netflix Stranger Things popularized it by having it be a bonding experience between the characters. Dungeons & Dragons is the ultimate test of skill amongst its followers.  Those same followers were let down with a crappy 2000 adaptation of the game. Now, it is getting a second chance with equal talent in front of the camera and behind it. Is this one a perfect dice role?

John Francis Daly and Jonathan Goldstein, who have worked on countless films together, such as Game Night, Horrible Bosses, and Vacation, team up once again as the writers and directors of this adaptation. Additionally, they bring on the help of writer Michael Gilio to breathe life into this adventure. The results aren’t terrible, it’s a predictable and fairly vanilla experience. The story that the three writers conjure has Edgin Darvis, played with charm by Chris Pine, and Holga, played with grit by Michelle Rodriguez, who are part of a band of thieves. They justify their actions by telling themselves that they only steal from the rich and don’t physically harm anyone.   Within the group of misfits is Forge, Hugh Grant playing up his devilish humor again, who is self-described con man, who escapes an ambush that results in the capture of Darvis and Holga. Darvis’ last plea to Forge is to take care of his daughter and to keep the precious resurrection stone safe. Darvis is maybe a criminal, but he is also a family man who is extra protective of his child since the death of his wife. His mission is to reunite with her and to retrieve the resurrection stone from Forge to make his family whole again. Of course, all does not go according to plan and those two problems multiply into an adventure bigger than they could’ve imagined. Along the way, he and Holga receive help from Simon, a wizard who has self-esteem problems, and Doric, who can transform into beasts larger than her petite self.

Pine has always been an interesting actor who could’ve stuck in one genre by using his looks to attain box office success but has challenged himself with different roles that range from blockbusters to smaller films. He’s having the great time here, playing the comic relief of the film. Additionally, his emotional journey is precisely played by the actor to add pathos to it too. Rodriguez is playing the same tough bitch character that she has done so well in The Fast and the Furious franchise for over 20 years. Justice Smith, who you might know for the 2019 film Detective Pikachu, does the self-deprecating act quite well. Sofia Lillis is fine as the self-serious and straight to the point Duric. The four actors perform okay as a team, but it isn’t their fault. They aren’t given much time to breathe with the onslaught of special effects and set pieces.

The effects are a mixture of practical and computer-generated imagery. When the film showcases the former, it separates itself from the mass amount of CGI heavy films that we are given each year, with worthy costume design and impressive makeup.  Unfortunately, the effects on the latter are a little shoddy. A creature looks too rubbery, or it is obvious that the actors are running in front of a green screen. At times, the two directors play it a little too safe. In recent Hollywood films, comedy seems to be the crutch when filmmakers seem to think audiences are getting a little too bored.  The Marvel films, especially this year’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania oversaturate the funny to the point of annoyance. Fortunately, Goldstein and Daly, who are gifted comedic writers, don’t overstay their welcome that badly, but it does get a bit tiresome at times. The two do create some memorable set pieces, with one including a portal device, reminiscent of the video game Portal, that’s one of the highlights of the film.

As with all first films in a franchise, it is a way to see what works and what doesn’t. This is a fun adventure that will keep both adults and children hooked for the two hours.  There is a lot of familiarity here, but with a bigger budget and more creative freedom, I believe that Daly and Goldstein will come up with something more personal and polished for the sequel.

I am giving Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves 3 out of 5 Hairpieces!


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