Review: Funny, fulfilling ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ worth roll of the 20-sided die

‘Honor Among Thieves’ offers plenty for both long-time fans of tabletop game & the uninitiated

'Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves' sneak peek from Paramount

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – ★★★★ out of 5 -- Rated: PG-13 -- Run time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Your party finds itself at a bridge in the Underdark. An insight roll reveals a complicated trap that can only be avoided through meticulous planning and teamwork. Before even setting foot on the bridge, your party’s mage rolls a 1, a critical failure. The bridge crumbles into the abyss, and now your party must find another path.

“Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is filled with scenarios just like this that feel ripped from the classic tabletop game.

Throughout the movie’s nearly 2½ hour runtime, you can almost hear a group of off-screen D&D players huddled around a table, cheering on their victories and laughing at their mistakes. There are plenty of both.

The characters’ repeated missteps take the story on an engaging path without feeling too silly. Each member of the core cast is out for redemption, and right off the bat, you can tell it won’t be easy.

Viewers don’t need a Players Handbook to understand what’s happening. While D&D is built on decades of lore, the movie does an excellent job of establishing the universe without alienating the uninitiated.

The opening scene is essentially a player reading his character sheet, but it also sets the stakes for the adventure and adds some emotional depth.

Dungeons & Dragons is having a bit of a renaissance. Where once it was relegated to basements, it’s now prominently featured in popular shows like “Stranger Things,” “The Legend of Vox Machina” and countless Twitch streams with devoted fanbases. This love for the franchise is evident throughout the movie.

In the game, players create characters, allocate stats and craft a backstory. They embark on adventures with greater and greater stakes, defeating monsters along the way in pursuit of loot and experience points. A dice roll can decide everything -- from something as simple as the price of ale at a tavern to the killing blow in a duel with a towering monster.

Dungeons & Dragons promotional poster (Paramount Pictures)

The movie offers a lot for long-time players to enjoy. There’s a full D&D bestiary, including displacer beasts, owlbears, gelatinous cubes and of course a particularly pudgy dragon. Keep your eye out for Easter eggs. Keen-eyed viewers will be treated to a cameo from the 80s cartoon cast.

If this all sounds “nerdy” -- it is, but that’s OK. The movie is also insanely funny. The dialogue feels deliciously ad-libbed. Jokes are allowed to breathe. The characters poke fun at absurd D&D rules, and there’s one hilarious sequence in a cemetery that I don’t want to spoil. I’ll only say, you should stick around for the credits to see it pay off.

If you’re looking for a serious sword and sorcery epic, look elsewhere. “Honor Among Thieves” is closer to “Guardians of the Galaxy” than “Lord of the Rings.” It trades sci-fi for ren faire while forming its own motley crew, complete with a Hollywood Chris.

Chris Pine puts all his ability points into charisma. Where James Tiberius Kirk might solve his problems with his fists or a phaser, Pine’s Edgin uses his words and lute -- to varied effect.

Chris Pine arrives at the Ralph Lauren Spring 2023 Fashion Experience on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, at The Huntington in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello) (Invision)

The action is largely reserved for Michelle Rodriguez’s Holga and Regé-Jean Page’s Xenk. They are the muscle. While it takes a while to finally introduce the “Bridgerton” star, it’s worth it. He’s a parody of the “lawful good paladin,” a by-the-books “good guy” who is absurdly good at combat while less adept at conversation.

Hugh Grant (Forge) is having a blast in his larger-than-life role. Justice Smith’s awkward wizard (Simon) and Sophia Lillis’ shape-shifting druid (Doric) are less developed but are key to rounding out the party. Noticeably absent -- a cleric.

Hopefully, audiences will turn out for this unexpectedly fun adventure, and the directors will have a chance to address a lack of a healer in the sequel. This movie rolls 4 out of 5 stars.

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