Film Review: Dungeons and Dragons – Honour Amongst Thieves

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On Hollywood’s list of unsuccessfully exploited IP, just above Manimal and T.J Hooker, sits Dungeons and Dragons, the role playing game for those with arrested development and no entanglements, that’s hitherto inspired some joyless film and TV effluent, not least the 2000 movie with Jeremy Irons – his career nadir. Yes, if “D&D” were a corpse one could revive via magical incantation, the only question one would ask it is, ‘why are you so beloved by the demographic most likely to see genre movies, yet remain box office kryptonite?’

Well, the answer could be that until Honour Amongst Thieves, no one’s managed to capture the fun and spirit of the game-as-played, and its world – the experience that groups of socially awkward friends enjoy when congregating to regress to a play state, rolling dice to determine their next move. I had to roll a D20 to determine the quality of this review. You’ll be able to guess my roll from the words that follow.

The plot of D&D the movie literalises the die casting of the game, focusing as it does on a series of gambits with long odds, but it also incorporates the sense of camaraderie and good humour that frames any group role playing adventure. Serious world building is infused with silliness and absurdist complications; the granary bread and butter of this fantasy universe. The jokes may be sub-Monty Python but they’re commensurate with the kind of gags a troupe of fourteen year-olds are likely to come up with, which amounts to a good adaptation of this property.

We probably have Strange Things 4 to thank for this revival, but if it has birthed a new film franchise, that’s no chore if each instalment is as colourful and good natured as this one.

Those on the quest include a wryly caddish Hugh Grant, who appears to be channelling UK ex-prime minister Boris Johnson, and Chris Pine – who as the incongruous Hollywood A-lister surrounded by more credible fantasy figures, has enough charm and vulnerability to headline a uniformly game (and demographically aware) cast.

Honour Amongst Thieves could have used a bigger budget – some of the effects, despite being produced by Industrial Light and Magic, are a little ropey, but it’s a good, if unnecessarily sweary fantasy adventure, that should enjoy broad appeal if those burned by previous cinematic forays into this magical realm can be persuaded to roll the dice and give it a try.

Directed by: Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley

Country: US

Year: 2023

Running Time: 134 mins

Certificate: 12A for Bradley Cooper's emasculating cameo, the sexual logistics of Cooper's relationship with a woman three times his size, and no cameo from Jeremy Irons

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