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Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves ★★★★



Directors: Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley

Cast: Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Justice Smith, Hugh Grant, Daisy Head, Regé-Jean Page, Sophia Lillis, Chloe Coleman

Release: 31st March 2023

First launched back in the 1970s, the beloved tabletop role-playing game (RPG) has long since been a part of popular culture. However, after three terrible attempts at a big-screen adaptation (the less said about the 2000 flick the better!) – we’re still yet to have a decent, big-budget blockbuster Dungeons and Dragons outing.

Nonetheless, with Stranger Things and Critical Role reigniting the world’s adoration for the fantasy RPG, now is the perfect time for John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein’s long-awaited reboot of the franchise – and I’m so glad to report it’s a delightfully fun throwback to the golden age of 80s fantasy adventures.

Following the tragic loss of his wife, charming bard Egin (Chris Pine) and his barbarian bestie Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) go in search of a magical relic to attempt to bring her back. However, their party of thieves are double-crossed by wily rogue Forge (Hugh Grant), who has them arrested while he swoops into power with their promised treasure – along with seizing custody of Egin’s daughter.

On their release, the duo recruit a party of unlikely heroes, including sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith) and shapeshifting druid Doric (Sophia Lillis) – along with a little help from paladin Xenk (Regé-Jean Page) – to plan a daring heist to break into Forge’s treasure vault and rescue Egin’s daughter.

Despite a somewhat thin plot stretched across a bloated two-hour 20ish runtime, Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Among Thieves is a wonderfully entertaining and self-referential romp with a surprising amount of heart. In the best way possible, the central narrative genuinely feels like the beginning of a campaign ripped straight from a DM’s notebook, with plenty of magical monsters and items, side quests and combat sequences to boot.

Following decades of incredibly serious, adult high fantasy instalments due to the game-changing Game of Thrones, it’s so refreshing to be immersed in a world which isn’t afraid to have a bit of fun with it all. With clear inspiration from 80s classics, including The Princess Bride and Indiana Jones, the witty script from Goldstein, Daley and Michael Gilio is packed full of cheeky quips, goofy humour and bags of charm.

It’s a real delight to be along for the surprisingly earnest and enjoyable ride, with a script elevated by the brilliant chemistry of the central cast. It’s clear that they all understood the assignment, as they’ve hit just the right balance of irreverence and affection for the source material.

Pine climbs up the ranks of the Hollywood Chris’ with his utterly charismatic turn as bard Egin, and it’s clear that he’s not afraid to embrace the more silly elements of the class. He shares a wonderfully loving but platonic dynamic with co-parent Holga, the potato-loving, bad-ass barbarian – with Rodriguez particularly excelling in the impressively choreographed fight sequences.

However, it’s Rege-Jean Page as the handsome yet incredibly straight-laced Xenk Yendar who really does steal the show. The Bridgerton star hilariously embodies the utter seriousness of a paladin, but with a surprising amount of presence and charm – and so it feels almost criminal that he’s hardly in it. It’s the one major question mark hanging over the film, why not take the expert swordsman along for the adventure too? Grant also shines as the rogue-ish fiend, further channelling his wonderful villain shtick from Paddington 2.

Meanwhile, Smith and Lillis’ respective character arcs feel somewhat underused in comparison. Sorcerer Sam is at least afforded a slight transformation in a typical d&d ‘believe in yourself’ arc, and yet he constantly tries to romantically pursue Doric, even when she’s previously turned him down – which feels a little regressive. And despite proving key in some of the more magical sequences (the owlbear transformation is a real standout), Doric is certainly shortchanged in the backstory and development department.

The film truly wonderfully comes to life thanks to the incredible world-building, with stunning on-location shooting in Ireland, a whole host of fun practical effects and puppetry and a fantasy-filled score from Lorne Balfe. The magical creatures and items really are a joy to see on the big screen (particularly the displacer beast, gelatinous cube and the hilariously chubby dragon), and there’s a particularly brilliant set piece involving the questioning of dead soldiers which proves a real highlight.

Honour Amongst Thieves is an entertaining and heartfelt romp packed full of successful charisma rolls thanks to the brilliant cast, particularly the scene-stealing Grant & Regé-Jean Page. This wonderfully fun fantasy throwback really is a brilliant slice of escapism, and hopefully the start of many more big-screen, blockbuster quests!

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