Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Having freshly rewatched 2000’s wildly misguided and ridiculously campy Dungeons & Dragons, the prospect of a new take on the tabletop classic was probably the last thing on any film buff’s mind. Infamously, that iteration was a box office bomb that failed to kickstart a new franchise despite the presence of a relatively solid cast. Prepare to wash away any insecurities one may have towards the brand in approaching this fresh take—despite knowing not a single thing about wizards, paladins, or magic spells, I fell in love with Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves and its thick book of charms. An ensemble cast and razor-sharp script cook up an utterly enchanting journey into a realm of fantasy the likes of which we have never seen before!

As our story unfolds, we are plunged into a snowy landscape. This is the first of many obscenely ridiculous climate and setting changes throughout as our travelers scour the ends of the earth during their quest. What happens before the opening title even unfurls onto the screen is a hilariously perfect introduction to our core characters. Edgin (Chris Pine) of the Harper’s Faction and his right hand woman, the gruff Barbarian warrior Holga (Michelle Rodriguez), must make a case before a small council as to their innocence, lest they be forced to wait another full year before they are again eligible to be pardoned. Edgin recounts the lengthy road that led them to being imprisoned for “grand larceny and skull duggery” in a clear, concise manner while begging to see an absent member of the council hilariously named Jarnathan. 

As the audience eagerly awaits the imminent arrival of Jarnathan, we learn that Edgin’s commitment to the cause—a veritable network of spies devoted to stopping bandits and bringing dark wizards to justice—eventually resulted in the unfortunate death of his loyal wife, Zia (Georgia Landers), when he stole from the creepy Red Wizards of Thay. Holga joined him to help raise their baby, Kira (Chloe Coleman), in his most imminent time of need. Holga and Edgin evolved a relationship akin to brother and sister. The three of them became thieves together as Kira graduated to teenage years, recruiting two others to fill out their motley crew: half-elf wizard Simon (Justice Smith), whose insecurities about his own magical powers will eventually become a key aspect of the plot, and good-natured con man Forge (Hugh Grant). 

While they only typically stole from the rich, the arrival of the powerful Red Wizard Sofina (Daisy Head) ends up being their downfall. An epically disastrous mission to raid a keep and bring back a Tablet of Reawakening said to revive the dead results in Edgin and Holga caught by a Time Stop spell. Edgin desperately passed off the tablet to Forge in the hopes that he will protect Kira. It all seems a bit ridiculous, exacerbated only by a swift escape when Jarnathan finally arrives as the explanation concludes—the duo ride the bird-creature out the tall open window of the chamber, and to their ultimate escape. This is just the setup, a mere appetizer to the madcap heist to retrieve the tablet, and track down Kira. The traitorous Forge has now become the Lord of Neverwinter, poisoning Kira’s mind with Sofina as his top advisor!

In order to achieve the impossible, Edgin and Holga must assemble a new team. They track down Simon, along with shape-shifting Tiefling, Doric (Sophia Lillis) and ferociously powerful matter-of-fact paladin Xenk (Rege-Jean Page) in the hopes of defeating Forge and Sofina once and for all! The narrative’s ensemble nature gives every single character a time to shine in the spotlight, and win over hearts. The emotional core is not overdone whatsoever, and never slows down enough to negatively affect literally anything unfolding onscreen. Action is fun and fast-paced, but the humor is the real winner here. A “pudgy dragon,” glitchy illusion of Pine strumming a tune on his harp, a slow-motion potato throw, and hilariously complex bridge sequence are just a taste of what this movie has to offer. Tangible creature work and fantastical visuals are welcomed with open arms. I will take practical effects work over the silly abundance of CGI that typically colors these movies any day!

The brilliance of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is enough to make one forget that 2000’s film ever even existed, to be honest. Writer/director duo John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein are no strangers to the meta humor and note-perfect approach to tropes—twice before, the team have pulled off the impossible in clever Game Night and vastly underrated Vacation. The third time’s the charm here: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves may just be their best collaboration yet. Presenting as a mixture of Shrek, Netflix’s Disenchantment, and Game of Thrones, the careful balance of tones leaves the film accessible to any comedy fans. Here’s to hoping these players spark up a ferociously enjoyable franchise. So far, this is the biggest and best surprise of 2023! 

Roll the dice into a fantastical new world when Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves arrives exclusively in theaters on Friday, March 31st. 

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