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Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (SXSW)

“That is one pudgy dragon…did he eat the last one?!”

Truth-telling time: I have never played the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. I have a memory from childhood of friends playing while I observed their, ahem, nerdom. I was more of a movie kid than a lengthy board game player, although I absolutely adored Trivial Pursuit and Clue. Still do.

But with “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley make sure that their new movie is a treat for veteran players of the game and newcomers to the genre alike. Feeding off of relevant information from the game’s nostalgic moments, this epic fantasy flick had its world premiere at SXSW. It stars an impressively funny and attractive ensemble cast that includes Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, Hugh Grant, and some VERY entertaining cameos.

The movie opens in a dungeon with Edgin Darvis (Pine), a former Harper whose wife was murdered and whose daughter is being raised by another. He is joined by Holga (Michelle Rodriguez), a barbarian and former surrogate mother to Edgin’s daughter, as they strike up a daring escape. From here, the pair team up with con artists, wizards, sorcerers, and other thieves to clear their names and win back Edgin’s daughter. The plot’s focal point, though, is a mystical helmet, which becomes the MacGuffin and a device by which all characters strive to retrieve.

There is a lot going on in this irresistible movie, but the humor balances out the fantasy nicely. The film serves as a buddy comedy locked in the fantasy genre, leaving easter eggs and inside jokes for even the casual D&D player to pick up on. Magic is at the center of this flick in various ways that demonstrate how far the directors of “Game Night” have come in their blockbuster credibility.

The film is like if “Game of Thrones” went to the Renaissance Faire but stopped to learn one-liners at a comedy club. All in a good way. Pine shows how solid of a lead he can be in a heroic character meant for audiences to swoon as they laugh at his antics. Rodriguez continues to explore the badassery she has perfected in other large-scale productions like the Fast & the Furious franchise while embarking on a crown-pleasing blockbuster meant for kids, adults, and everyone in between. The supporting cast is terrific, each in their own way, especially Hugh Grant, who is consistently devilish and charming.

Allies and nemesis are a mystery throughout this movie, which concentrates heavily on its namesake by including multiple climactic sequences with dungeons and, yes, dragons. But titular characters aside, the film proves how a bit of comedy can save an epic presentation, even if its core audience has never played with the source material before. The visual effects are stunning and complement the fact that you don’t need to follow along with the dialogue to understand what comes next. It can be fast-paced but simultaneously witty.

A feast for the eyes, “D&D” excels in not taking itself too seriously but allowing viewers to enjoy a fun experience. It is captivating, hysterical, mythical, and all-around charismatic in its execution. I can see more installments to this newly built world in the future if the initial project is a success at the box office. Longtime players of the game and newbies looking to start the summer movie season early will delight in this one.

Ticket Rating: 🎟🎟🎟🎟


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