Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves | SXSW 2023

Score:  B

Director:  John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein

Cast:  Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Justice Smith, Huge Grant, Regé-Jean Page

Running Time:  134 Minutes

Rated:  PG-13

"Never put your trust in a conman."

First and foremost, I have to concede that I have never played Dungeons & Dragons, Hasbro's popular tabletop board game. Moreso, I have never seen the board or heard others playing it. It has simply never interested me.

Why is this important? Because, by all accounts, I shouldn't have enjoyed John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein's Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. I shouldn't have even known what was happening on screen. But somehow, amidst all the rubble, the film found its way, prompting high marks for its creativity and wit.

Boasting massive, larger-than-life set pieces, Honor Among Thieves tells the story of a charming thief, Chris Pine's Elgin, and his band of unlikely adventurers who take on a heist of mass proportions to retrieve a lost relic that will return one deceased soul to life. Blaming himself for his wife's death, Elgin longs to use the powerful artifact on her, returning his daughter's mother and cementing themselves as a complete family. But you can't always trust those around you, and, as one would expect, the operation goes terribly off course.

Featuring a dynamic supporting cast that includes Michelle Rodriguez, Justice Smith, Regé-Jean Page, Daisy Head, and Huge Grant, Dungeons & Dragons relies heavily on the group's chemistry and comedic talents. Full of humorous and whimsical dialogue, the film bears a unique, carefree element that is addictive as you sit back, relax, and enjoy the action fantasy event.

While I assume small parts are pulled directly from the game, Daley and Goldstein work hard to give the film a universal appeal, ensuring it is understood and enjoyed by fans and non-fans alike. And that is saying something given the genre's sudden resurgence thanks to the success of recent serial offerings from both The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones franchises.

Though that comparison is a bit unfair given this film's unquestionably different tone and target demographic, it does showcase the broad spectrum the genre is currently operating within. Innocent and family-friendly, Dungeons & Dragons leans into its core, crafting a simple and straightforward story. Its focus is on the bigger picture and how it parallels the game. Anything additional would substantially distract from the source material and alienate the tabletop's enormous base.

As with most action fantasy offerings, this film is long, twenty minutes too long. Thankfully the story maintains your attention throughout, utilizing its cast of characters to generate an endless run of memorable scenes that continue to push the narrative forward. But the story still feels drawn out and uninventive, most noticeably in the third act when our protagonist attempts to thwart his nemesis and save the town from a curse that will spell doom for everyone involved.

With any story, you can only get away with so much fluff. Daley and Goldstein toy with that line consistently, cleverly balancing the surplus with the essentials while always catering to the visual effects. Their formula isn't perfect, but it does allow for some compelling sequences that ultimately give the film a robust and worthy conclusion.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.