REVIEW: 'Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves' is a goofball fantasy adventure

Star Chris Pine can materialize real acting chops when a scene calls for it.

March 31, 2023, 4:04 AM

If you're not a "Dungeons & Dragons" game lover or even a first-date acquaintance, you'll be relieved that the creators of this spiffy film version insist that you don't need to know a thing about this role-playing video game phenom to navigate the maze of what's on screen.

That's a lie, of course. "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves," now in theaters after a crowd-pleasing Texas debut this month at Austin's SXSW festival, is aimed at the fans lost in the jargon of the game that's been around for nearly half a century.

Still, after initial rough-going, the movie develops into a goofball fantasy adventure for the rest of us.

The insider references are still there, but non-gamers will quickly learn to ignore them and dive in for the rowdy fun that erases all memories of the disastrous 2000 film version.

PHOTO: Scene from Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves movie trailer featuring Michelle Rodriguez, Justice Smith, and Chris Pine.
Scene from Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves movie trailer featuring Michelle Rodriguez, Justice Smith, and Chris Pine.
Paramount Pictures

For that, big thanks to a cast of merry pranksters led by Chris Pine with a wicked mischief that won't quit.

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Pine, best known as Capt. James T. Kirk in the "Star Trek" film reboot, brings the same snarky wink to his role as Edgin Darvis, a poet knight-turned-thief with a quest.

PHOTO: Scene from Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves movie trailer featuring Chris Pine.
Scene from Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves movie trailer featuring Chris Pine.
Paramount Pictures

There's always a quest. The murder of his wife has forced Edgin to raise their daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman) with only the help of a tattooed barbarian Holga (a sly, scrappy Michelle Rodriguez). Now, like many men faced with parental responsibility, Edgin wants to raise his wife from the dead.

But first he needs to escape from the prison where he's been held by the smiling villain Forge Fitzwilliam, hilariously mugged by Hugh Grant in another of the classic rogues he's given us since he turned from romcom sweetie to deliciously demented baddie in "Paddington 2."

Can Edgin get past Forge, evil sorceress Sofina (Daisy Head) and assorted dragons and demons guarding Forge's Castle Never to seize the magic tablet that will grant his wishes? Would there be a movie if he couldn't?

PHOTO: Scene from Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves movie trailer.
Scene from Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves movie trailer.
Paramount Pictures

Good luck that directors and co-screenwriters Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, who previously staged 2018's uber-clever "Game Night," not to mention 2017's "Spider-Man: Homecoming," know their way around combining action and character.

Edgin and Holga (no sex, please, they're just buds) come to rely on a surrogate family of similar misfits to fulfill their impossible dream. They include shaky magician Simon (Justice Smith), the shapeshifting Doric (Sophia Lillis) and, best of all, "Bridgerton" star Regé-Jean Page as paladin Xenk Yendar, whose lack of humor makes him outrageously funny.

PHOTO: Scene from Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves movie trailer featuring Regé-Jean Page.
Scene from Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves movie trailer featuring Regé-Jean Page.
Paramount Pictures

Also funny are the assorted monsters, chatty corpses, flaming cubes and a chubwub dragon. Don't be too put off by the schlock factor. "D&D" knows it's more Monty Python than "Lord of the Rings" and that's its secret sauce.

That and the star presence of Pine who knows his way around comedy, high and low, and can materialize real acting chops when a scene calls for it.

Even when silly subplots spill over into confusion and chaos, Pine keeps us in Edgin's corner.

He even pulls off the climactic surprise when "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" stops with the wildcard energy and jokey throwaways and shifts into emotional beats that tug at the heart. You didn't expect that, did you? Me either. And the movie is all the better for it.

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