DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: HONOR AMONG THIEVES – Review by Valerie Kalfrin
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves has ample dungeons, honor, and dragons, along with tremendous fun. From an ensemble cast playing characters with clear traits and motivations to a story filled with clever sequences and close escapes, it’s a rousing adventure that also scores points for unexpected heart.
Based on the long-running fantasy tabletop game (and thankfully much different from the 2000 adaptation best forgotten), Honor Among Thieves leans heavily on humor without dissolving into farce. It’s an enjoyable romp in the vein of 1988’s Willow and 1981’s Dragonslayer that’s almost suitable for all ages. (A background beheading and some undead violence helped to earn the PG-13.)
Directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who previously co-directed Game Night and received screenplay credits on Spider-Man: Homecoming, also team up on the screenplay here with Michael Gilio (Jolene). Chris McKay, who directed The Tomorrow War, also receives story credit. While that’s a lot of cooks in the brew, the result bounces along seamlessly.
Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez anchor the story as Edgin and Holga, de facto siblings and more or less honorable thieves whose wayward ways have landed them in a godforsaken prison when the story opens. The two pull off an escape just as they’re granted an early release, exemplifying their hapless luck.
Edgin wants to reconnect with Kira (Chloe Coleman, 65), the teen daughter he left behind when he tried to swipe an enchanted tablet to reverse his late wife’s death. His old buddy, Forge (Hugh Grant, Glass Onion), has looked after the girl in Edgin’s absence, but he’s also poisoned the relationship, saying Edgin abandoned the girl for riches. Edgin feels betrayed, but what else would you expect from a con man after his own kingdom with a shady sorceress (Daisy Head, Shadow and Bone) in the wings?
What follows is essentially a heist story involving several magical objects key to a larger plan while Edgin tries to redeem himself in Kira’s eyes. Along the way, he and Holga join forces with Simon (Justice Smith, Sharper), an insecure wizard, and Doric (Sophia Lillis, The Adults), a shapeshifter. They also meet a variety of spectacular creatures, Holga’s ex (a cameo and a sight gag best not spoiled), and a handsome paladin (Regé-Jean Page, Bridgerton) who takes everything literally. While this sets up jokes similar to some Guardians of the Galaxy humor, the film gives Page more notes to play as a decent soul who sees Edgin isn’t a complete rogue, even if the latter is amusingly jealous of his swordsmanship (and pretty much everything else).
That generosity runs throughout the film, not just with the script but in the cinematography by Barry Peterson and the visual and special effects teams, who highlight each character’s skills in ways that complement each other and also give them moments to shine. There’s a wonderful sequence where Doric scrambles to escape a castle, the camera rolling and scooting along at her eye level as she changes from one creature to another, a hair’s breadth ahead of death. In another scene, the image rotates as a character steps through a portal, adding to the enchantment and discombobulation.
Pine (Don’t Worry Darling) and Rodriguez (the Fast and Furious films) play well off each other, his Edgin hatching plans while her Holga takes on brawlers, dryly noting he won’t be much help. Yet beneath Edgin’s confidence is a man of regrets too desperate to quit, and within Holga is a nurturer, the only mother Kira has really known.
Although the jokes land well—a graveyard trek to interview the dead and a battle with a hefty dragon are particular treats—the dollops of pathos also work, a credit to the film making us care about these heroes and their quest. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves proves to be thoroughly entertaining, and that’s no roll of the dice.