[Screen It]


(2023) (Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez) (PG-13)

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Fantasy/Action/Comedy: A small team of thieves with unique skills tries to retrieve a powerful relic, but must contend with a diabolical leader and his powerful wizard.

In a fantasy world, Edgin Darvis (Chris Pine) was once a protector working for The Harpers. But when a Red Wizard killed his wife, he turned to a life of crime to support himself and his daughter, Kira (Chloe Coleman), who's now joined him and his small team of robbers. They include barbarian Holga Kilgore (Michelle Rodriguez), amateur sorcerer Simon Aumar (Justice Smith), rogue Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant) and Sofina (Daisy Head), the newest member.

While trying to steal a resurrection tablet to bring his wife back from the dead, Edgin learns that Sofina is a Red Wizard, and he and Holga end up captured and imprisoned during which time Forge has become the Lord of Neverwinter and the guardian of Kira.

Needing to prove to his daughter that he didn't abandon her and still wanting to get his hands on the resurrection tablet, Edgin and Holga escape, reunite with Simon, and add shapeshifter Doric (Sophia Lillis) to their small team. With the help of Xenk Yendar (Regé-Jean Page), they try to both accomplish Edgin's goals and defeat Forge and Sofina.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10

Everybody loves a surprise. That is, unless it falls into the bad or expensive variety. Surprise birthday party? Great, a fun time for all. Winning the lottery? Even better. Having your hot water heater spring a leak? Hmmm, not so great. Your car breaks down in the middle of the road during rush hour? Now that's the sort of surprise no one wants, or expects. But such ill-timed ones are part of life.

But I don't think anyone complains about pleasant surprises. Those usually aren't life-changing, but they're often a nice little "pick me up" element that makes you feel better when you least expect it. Those can also come in any variety, but I enjoy it when they arrive in the form of a movie I imagined would range from mediocre at best to excruciatingly bad at worst.

Upon sitting down for our press screening of "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves," I was expecting it to fall somewhere along that scale, what with its genre not being my favorite, having zero experience with the role-playing game and thus figuring I might not fully grasp the whos and whats of the story.

I also don't remember a thing about the earlier attempt from nearly a quarter of a century ago to bring the game to the big screen. Having gone back and reread my review of that 2000 film, I see that I gave it a glowing score of 1 out of 10.

In concluding my review, I wrote, "I can't attest how faithful the film is to the game, but for the average moviegoer and non-fan, the story, as a freestanding vehicle, isn't particularly interesting or engaging from an action or fantasy standpoint, but is often unintentionally funny when it swings for the fences - and strikes out -- from a dramatic perspective. Simply put, the film isn't very good, and beyond some decent but not outstanding computer graphics and related effects, there's nothing here worthy of receiving a recommendation. "Dungeons & Dragons" should either be locked away in the first or fed to the latter."

For this newest version, I can happily report that while I'm still in the dark about the faithfulness -- or not -- of the final product to the source material, it's an entertaining and engaging ride from both an action and fantasy standpoint, and is quite -- and purposefully -- funny. Yes, I was pleasantly surprised, and imagine you might be as well if you give the film a chance to work its cinematic magic on you.

Directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein from a screenplay they wrote with Michael Gilio, the story revolves around a merry band of thieves -- Edgin Darvis (Chris Pine), his daughter, Kira (Chloe Coleman), barbarian Holga Kilgore (Michelle Rodriguez), amateur sorcerer Simon Aumar (Justice Smith) and rogue Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant) -- who operate in some fantasy land where fantastical beasts and beings exist. The group ends up taking on a bad addition in the form of Sofina (Daisy Head), and attempts to steal a resurrection tablet (that Edgin hopes to use to bring back his murdered wife from a few years back), only to have things go awry.

He and Holga end up imprisoned, while Forge ends up ruling Neverwinter with Sofina as his Red Wizard enforcer and Kira as his kinda, sorta adopted daughter. That doesn't sit well with Edgin, so he and Holga escape (in one of many funny scenes), round up Simon and newcomer Doric (Sophia Lillis), and get some help from Bridgerton's resident heartthrob (Regé-Jean Page), a.k.a. Xenk Yendar to deal with the villains and maybe just maybe resurrect his wife and thus hopefully win back his daughter who's been fed a steady diet of lies about him.

While the requisite big action scenes and special effects are present, what makes the film work so well is the chemistry between the "hero" characters, the overall fun tone, and the humor that's far more prevalent and effective than I ever could have imagined -- or hoped for -- for a film of this genre. Simply put, it's entertaining from start to finish, and even occasionally emotionally touching. Yes, it surprised me -- pleasantly so -- and thus "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" rates as a 6.5 out of 10.

Posted March 31, 2023

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