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Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves is Next Level Fantasy Fun

Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves from Paramount Pictures.

Fantasy is often seen as a less accessible film genre, with its magical lore feeling like a bar to entry. Dungeons & Dragons: Honour among Thieves simplifies the lore, bypasses the legendary role-playing game and the end result is a family film owing as much to Monty Python and Jumanji as it does to D&D. Dungeons & Dragons is a fun ride, a light-hearted and congenial buddy movie.

Minor spoilers ahead in the next two paragraphs so jump to just after the trailer below if you don’t want to see them.

Chris Pine plays Edgin. A Harper agent by trade (basically, a peacekeeper) he turns his talents to thievery after a Red Wizard (greedy undead-loving priest) kills his wife, leaving behind their young daughter, Kira. Edgin is lucky enough to meet heartbroken Barbarian Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) who helps him raise Kira by means of a friends-only cohabitation arrangement. Theft in this world requires a particular set of skills, so Edgin recruits Sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith) and Rogue (meaning, conman/thief) Forge (Hugh Grant). Edgin agrees to steal for mysterious client Sofina (Daisy Head), incentivized by the haul including a resurrection tablet, which he wants to use to bring back his wife. Sofina is unfortunately also a Red Wizard with her own agenda, and although Simon and Forge escape, during the heist she snitches on Edgin and Holga, who go to jail.

Two years later, they break out and immediately head to find Kira (Chloe Coleman), who is being cared for by Forge, now a suspiciously wealthy feudal lord. Forge has brainwashed Kira into hating her father, thinking he went to prison for his greed so Edgin and Holga hatch a plan to steal the resurrection tablet from Forge’s magically sealed vault to prove the truth. The duo rekindle their alliance with Simon, and enlist Doric (Sophia Lillis), a Tiefling Druid (a type of human with devilish ancestors who gains magical powers from nature) who can shape-shift, or wild shape, into animals and Xenk (Regé-Jean Page), a Paladin (a warrior sworn to uphold justice and righteousness) to help them on their quest.

It was a joy to join this quest. Dungeons & Dragons is peppy and wholesome, with clear delineation of good and evil, making it easy to root for Edgin’s gang and their pursuits. There is a clear feeling of found family and all of the characters have cool plot arcs, interact well and keep the action moving. Pine and Rodriguez, unsurprisingly, have great buddy energy, with Rodriguez enjoying being the strong silent type and Pine getting to flex his screwball-comedy chops. Hugh Grant never misses. Genre movies have always been given short shrift, and this film makes it clear that they can work as well as traditional action movies if they are cared for, i.e. cast well, work from a great script and employ thoughtful direction.

Dungeons & Dragons is co-directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, who have lots of experience in TV comedy drama. But just like in the movie, the writing was a team effort, with the directors and screenwriter Michael Gilio honing filmmaker Chris McKay’s (The Lego Batman Movie) ideas for laughs and momentum.  The film’s healthy budget ($151m) means there’s plenty of CGI, because what is D&D without a dungeon or a dragon? The special effects are clever and natural, particularly in a scene where Doric transforms into multiple animals on a breakneck journey. Lillis is one to watch, and Page finally has a part that plays to his rugged hero strengths, while allowing him to lean into the funny. Plus, there are cute cameos and lore-lover references, with an 80s fantasy vibe, drawing from Willow and The Princess Bride.

Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is far better than most current traditional action comedies. Hopefully, it heralds a new era of accessible, lighter fantasy.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves is out on 31st March 2023.

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