You know…I haven’t ever played D&D. I’d like to try one of these days but I’ve never had the time or commitment to dive in. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves has certainly given that want a jolt, putting on full display the sincere creativity and fun that I’ve been told a campaign could be.
It’s not like we’re without our share of bright, silly, allegedly humorous blockbusters. Recent efforts by Taika Waititi and Peyton Reed put on the costume of a good time but smell more of corporate synergy than a good gag while James Cameron continues to pump out brilliance with more technical wonderment than fun. Now, however, we’ve got the nerdiest movie I’ve seen in ages and it’s an absolute blast from start to finish, barely feeling like it’s a full 135 minutes.
Some of that is due to being led by Hollywood’s greatest Chris – Chris Pine. The Star Trek actor has been on an interesting ride throughout his career, perfecting his comedic schtick in films like Hell or High Water and Wonder Woman. That sincerity hides a frightening depth that he brought forth in last year’s troubled Don’t Worry Darling and lends a lovely undercurrent to his goofiness. A bard in search of a way to revive his wife and rebuild his family, Edgin Darvis is a character built completely on his actor’s personality and feels like awin for it.
Pine is joined by Justice Smith, no stranger to fantastical worlds after Detective Pikachu, and It‘s Sophia Lillis. The two play some of our more sincere and devoted characters, each with different levels of developed backstories that feel like two youth with different levels of dedication to homework. Michelle Rodriguez tags in as Holga, a beefy warrior that is the platonic better half of Pine’s Edgin. She rounds out the cast with her usual fare, perfectly-tailored to this world and all of it’s glorious nonsense.
This is not a group you’d readily think of for a fantasy adventure. Rege-Jean Page and Hugh Grant fit that role better on paper and that seems to be what they are, with Page relegated to an NPC and Grant our story’s villain, but Pine’s band rallies and develops a charming chemistry that I honestly didn’t see coming. Card on the table I thought this sounded pretty stupid when it was announced, but Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves takes itself just the right amount of seriously without compromising any of the inherent freedom and joy that is a group of friends playing a game. Each bit of onscreen tomfoolery is treated exactly as it should be, from a staff that’s basically a Portal gun to the titular dragon itself (and what a chungus they are). There’s even a very sincere cameo that’s perhaps one of the funniest film gags of the year. This film is everything it’s competition has longed to be (and thought it was) for years.
I would like to highlight the work of Legacy Effects, the team responsible for The Mandalorian‘s Grogu and all of the practical work here. From the get-go we’re introduced to Jarnathan (Clayton Grover), an Aarakocras bird-man that is both a gorgeous bit of costuming and a delightful opening gag. The work to design a suit like this and to make it work deserves a shoutout, but it’s just one of dozens of instances throughout the film where Legacy Effects was able to create something tangible onscreen. That’s special in the age of greenscreen effects and an attitude of “we’ll fix it in post.” Just a great looking film.
I urge you all to go see this one. It’s a family-friendly movie that’s just ripe for anyone as either a date movie, a night out with friends, or even just a fun way to kill two hours if you’re bored. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a breath of fresh air and I cannot wait for more of these.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is currently playing in theatres.