Anyone who hasn’t seared nearly every film iteration of the beloved RPG table top game from their brains would be right to meet this latest offering with as much skepticism as possible. Even with nearly 9 months of trailers and ads, you’d be right to approach “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” with extreme caution. When you’ve been burned this many times, no one can really blame you for this mindset. Thankfully, that same skepticism is met with a foreknowledge by the creators, knowing that if they’re going to do this, they need to do it right. And “Honor Among Thieves” largely succeeds, borrowing a few pages from other successful franchise playbooks and combining them to deliver a fun, funny, and charming fantasy adventure loaded with nods to D&D fans and accessible to people who have never once fired up the game. “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is essentially every fantasy adventure movie all rolled into one with a “Guardians of the Galaxy” skin, relying heavily on the charm of its cast to roll a nat 20.
Written and directed by Johnathan Goldstein and John Fancis Daley (“Horrible Bosses,” “Game Night“), “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is a rather straightforward fantasy heist story. A rag tag group of thieves stole the wrong thing for the wrong person and now each have their own reasons for attempting to correct their mistakes and save the world. Dragons and Red Wizards and dungeons and castles and swords and magic and creatures are all here, with “Honor Among Thieves” cramming in just about ever single fantasy adventure trope it can think of in its 134 minutes runtime.
The crew is rounded out by Chris Pine as Edgin Darvis, a bard hoping to reunite with his daughter, Michelle Rodriguez as Holga, a barbarian who helped raise Darvis’ daughter, Justice Smith as Simon, a pretty terrible sorcerer with a confidence problem, Sophia Llillis as Doric, a tiefling druid shapeshifter who wants to save her people, Regé-Jean Page as Xenk, a powerful paladin, and Huge Grant as Forge, a rogue and con man who has a very unsurprising turn as the villain in his quest for riches.
The general success of “Honor Among Thieves” is two fold: the charm of its cast and the overall accessibility of its fantasy elements. You don’t need to know a single thing about D&D to remain invested in the story, much like you don’t have to read “Lord of the Rings” to enjoy their film adaptions. Sure, you’ll get way more out of the film littered with easter eggs for fans, but “Honor Among Thieves” smartly prioritizes the fantasy over any hard and fast rules of campaign books. This allows anyone who just likes a good old fashioned adventure heist able to still invest in what’s happening and happily come along for the ride. The film takes us from one adventure the next with often breakneck pacing, chasing down this mcguffin or needing to enter this dungeon or fight that dragon and so on. It can feel a little messy at times, leaving one arc faster than when we arrived, but for anyone that has ever played a single moment of D&D knows that no matter what your DM has planned, everything goes off the rails pretty quickly. “Honor Among Thieves” keeps this intact to an almost detrimental commitment, but is saved by its cast being so damn fun you’re willing to overlook any of these pacing imbalances.
The cast (particularly our heroes) invigorate the rather trope filled story with an abundance of charm that is impossible not to love. The “Guardians of the Galaxy” comparisons are not without merit, with almost every hero in “Honor Among Thieves” having a direct Guardians counterpart. In less capable hands, this reskin would be unbearable, another victim of the marvel-cation of cinema that has permeated almost every genre since its monopoly of movies.
Luckily, Goldstein and Daley know the limits and play to the individual strengths of their cast, allowing this would be downfall to actually be a huge contributor to the film’s overall success. Pine is an absolute star, able to quip with the best of them and establish himself as one of the top Chris’ in the long list of beloved Chris’. I’ve always enjoyed him as an actor, but he really shines here and lets his comedic timing run wild and free to great effect. Regé-Jean Page is another stand out, though not used nearly enough but used more effectively than he ever has in just about anything he’s done so far.
I’m not sure why Page has been so underutilized since his breakout in “Bridgerton.” I didn’t watch the show, so I really only know him by proxy and some god awful miscasting in things like “The Gray Man.” Page’s Xenk proves that when you use his talents correctly, you can see all the makings of a Hollywood A-Lister capable of everything from drama to action to comedy. I’m really hoping “Honor Among Thieves” turns the tide for him and expands his opportunities to more than just a streaming heartthrob or wasted talent for a name. Rodriguez plays great against Pine, and the two have genuine chemistry as does the rest of the cast. The collection of talent really come together nicely, even Grant who is often pushed to the sidelines chews through scenery with every single frame he’s given. Sidenote, I really like this new turn for him in his later part of his career. “Honor Among Thieves” reiterates his newfound love of being the perfect asshole. He really does just shows up, dazzles with despicable charm, collects the check and does it again.
If I have any real misgivings that can’t be corrected by the film’s overall charm (which includes some shoddy CGI) it’s the lack of villain development outside of Grant. “Honor Among Thieves” really goes out of its way to let as many of their heroes cook, giving most of them genuine backstories and development as to why they’re each a part of this journey. Because of this, true villains like Sofina (Daisy Head) are relegated to a little more than an afterthought, despite being the big bad that rounds out the final battle. It’s not Head’s fault as a performer, just that “Honor Among Thieves” doesn’t quite know how to tie her into the fold effectively. This would matter more if the overall film wasn’t so much fun, with the rest of the cast who are given more time to breath making the most of every interaction and scene together.
Overall, “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is a critical hit, one that takes you back to a simpler time of good old fashioned crowd pleasing blockbusters. The film invites you to sit back, grab some popcorn and just enjoy the show and laughs. There are no real franchise aspirations, no studio forced universe, no egotistical power grabs. It’s just fun through and through, and any reservations about its overall elements are overshadowed by the charm and fun the cast are having overall that is so welcoming and inviting you can’t help but join them on their quest.
I’m sure for D&D fans, this kind of wide acceptance has been a long time coming, and I’m happy to report that “Honor Among Thieves” has enough to enjoy that even the most staunch “D&D is for NERDS!” will be asking themselves if they should give it a shot.
Hopefully this new found love for D&D brought on but the blast of “Honor Among Thieves” will welcome more people to the table.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
“Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” releases in theaters March 31st. You can watch the trailer below.