Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves – movie review

Movies based on video games are pretty common – Angry Birds, Sonic the Hedgehog and Pokemon: Detective Pikachu to name a few. But movies based on board games seems counter-intuitive. I mean, the board doesn’t move, and much of the play is inside the players’ heads. So the arrival of Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves comes a little out of left field.

Co-director Jonathan Goldstein has some impressive credits, including the enjoyable Game Night and Horrible Bosses. He’s joined here by John Francis Daley, their partnership no doubt fuelled by their collaboration as writers on Spider-Man: Homecoming. The pair also teamed with Michael Gilio on the screenplay. The result is a fairly routine fantasy-adventure – but one with a few surprises.

I admit I’ve never played the D&D board game. Indeed, most of what I know about the game comes from other movies and TV shows that reference it. So I’m not a diehard looking for fan service from the movie by any stretch. That said, the plot is one of those Marvel-esque stories that’s both elegantly simple and needlessly complex at the same time.

The brief version is that good guy Edgin (Chris Pine) teams up with a rag-tag bunch including loyal friend Holga (Michelle Rodriguez), wonky wizard Simon (Justice Smith) and quick-witted faun Doric (Sophia Lillis) to rescue Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman) from the clutches of his nefarious former ally Forge (Hugh Grant). The long version involves a very nasty Red Wizard named Sofina (Daisy Head); Xenk, (Regé-Jean Page) a daring knight with a dull personality; zombies; a resurrection amulet; and all kinds of nifty gadgets. It actually plays out a lot like a game. The characters have to find allies or tools to enable them to move on to the next level; leading to the inevitable boss-battle at the end.

But all the game-play in the world can’t make up for the pedestrian script and ponderous direction. This is in the arena of big, dumb action movies; and it does dumb with a capital D. The screenplay embraces cliches enthusiastically. And just in case you miss a point along the way, it’ll probably be repeated just to make sure. But the screenwriters have managed to build in some funny scenes to lighten the mood, while Goldstein and Daley keep things moving along with their direction.

What really lifts the film though is the fact that the cast seem to be having so much fun. Chris Pine (Don’t Worry Darling) brings an easy charm to Edgin; and Michelle Rodriguez (F9: The Fast Saga) provides a foil as the no-nonsense Holga. Justice Smith (Jurassic World: Dominion) and Sophia Lillis (Gretel & Hansel) both have nice moments as the willing sidekicks. Despite being burdened with a deliberately dull character, Regé-Jean Page (Bridgerton) brings sly wit to the role. And Hugh Grant (Operation Fortune) morphs that patented Hugh Grant charm into a lovely, if perhaps under-utilised, performance as the crafty Forge. Spare a thought though for young Kira Coleman (Avatar: The Way of Water) and Daisy Head (Wrong Turn) who are both lumbered with ponderous roles.

For all its faults, Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves comes with a ready-made audience who will no doubt flock to see it. If that’s you, then go for it. While I’m not part of that cohort, the film had its moments for me. So despite some hefty reservations, I’d put this in the “better than expected” category.

David Edwards

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