Every now and again, Hollywood takes a chance. They turn a beloved amusement park ride into a movie, they let Roland Emmerich blow up the White House, or they let Jack Black act like a teenage girl. I mention those because they worked against all odds, and I’m here to tell you that Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves deserves to be on the same list. D&D (as a movie) is a disastrous franchise, if you can even call it that, but this one unlocks the magic to deliver the most fun I’ve had all year.
I had the luck of watching this bad boy two weeks early, so I’ve had plenty of time to let it simmer in the back of my mind. And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve fallen in love with it. It’s pure fun when you’re watching it, and if you step back to break it down, it also captures D&D in its purest form. The entire movie is structured like a D&D campaign. Each step feels like it’s dictated by good (or bad) rolls, which gives the characters the chance to improvise–a staple of all good D&D.
The cast is stellar, anchored handily by Chris Pine who’s delivering all the charm he can muster as the Bard and “leader” of the group. Michelle Rodriguez–hilarious. Justice Smith–wonderful. Sophia Lillis–badass. Regé-Jean Page–mesmerizing. Hugh Grant is great as the antagonist, though I’m not sure he even knows what movie he’s in at times. The weakest link is the forgettable villain played by Daisy Head, but that’s not the fault of the actress, and honestly a one-note evil is kinda to be expected with D&D.
If you’re worried about not knowing your D&D enough to enjoy the movie, you can just put that anxiety to rest. You’ll be fine. The plot is clear, the lines are funny, the cinematography is punchy, the special effects are good, and the fight choreography is some of the most inventive I’ve seen. There are some deeper cuts for D&D fans, but none of them are introduced in a way that would be inexplicable to the unfamiliar.
And this movie is FUNNY. It’s comedy forward, with action in the back, and heart in the way back. All three are present and add to the layered plot, but the comedy is fresh, and they even managed to hold a lot of it from the trailers, so you’ll see something you haven’t seen before (though I still think they revealed more than necessary). Every character is set up to deliver the humor, even when they don’t mean to. Page’s Paladin, Xenk, is the greatest example of this, playing the perfect straight man and worthy of being the star of a future movie.
You may think I’m just a fan of D&D, and thus you can’t take my opinion at face value. It’s hard to argue that, as I do play D&D on the regular, but I’m not one of those players who have made it my identity or anything like that. I genuinely believe that Honor Among Thieves has taken a complicated fandom and made it accessible to all. It’s most reminds me of [the first] Pirates of the Caribbean, in that you just won’t believe how good it can be until you watch it for yourself.
So, yeah, that’s a glowing recommendation from me. Go watch it, even if you don’t know anything about D&D. It’s a grand old time the likes of comedy-adventure classics like The Princess Bride.
Should you watch it? Yes, unless you hate laughing.
Should you take your kids? Pretty safe for kids. There are undead, so that could be frightening to some.
What you should watch first: Nothing at all.