Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Apr 2, 2023

Growing up in the ’80s, Gary Gygax’s modest role-playing game was a thing of wonder. Four to six guys would crowd around a table with sheets of paper and roll dice, whilst the Dungeon Master (the referee/storyteller who walks adventurers through the quest) would spin gloriously demented adventures; whatever the imagination conjured up for the DM would dictate the possible actions the party of adventurers (us players) could select to overcome the current hurdle.
It’s quite clear both John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein were avid D&D players. In point of fact, John Daley’s character on Freaks and Geeks used to DM games for his character’s friends. Clearly, a slice of reality interstitched into the cult favorite dramedy. So, how does their latest work, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, compare to one of those hallowed campaigns I played in my youth, you brilliantly ask?
Quite simply, in a most wonderfully nostalgic manner. We are deep in the age of Nostalgia bait, and I, for one, am here for all of it. Here we have a classic company of adventurers, Edgin the bard (Chris Pine), Holga – a fighter (the indefatigable Michelle Rodriguez), the Sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith), and Doric (Sophia Lillis). In addition, the Paladin Xenk Yandor (a wonderful René-Jean Page) accompanies them on a side quest. When you consider these five characters, they are very well-balanced, and the chemistry is crackling with electricity. This is an essential element to a campaign or even your standard fantasy adventure; you have to find the party likable. These ‘thieves’ are consummately so.

“They must heist Forge’s ill-gotten plunder and reclaim Edgin’s daughter.”
The story is the standard D&D fare set between Icewind Dale and Neverwinter in the Forgotten realms. Having escaped the prison in Icewind, Edgin and Holga set out to find the daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman), whom his imprisonment forced him to abandon. They find Kira being tended to by a former companion Forge (the incomparable Hugh Grant). Forge will not give Kira back to Edgin, and thus we have the essence of the campaign. They must heist Forge’s ill-gotten plunder and reclaim Edgin’s daughter. Also, they must contend with the Red Wizard Sofina (Daisy Head), who is aiding and abetting Forge’s plot. She has a dark agenda of her own, which unfolds itself gloriously over the runtime of this film.
As much as I found it a glorious piece of nostalgia with many homages, callbacks, and cameos of legendary monsters and magical artifacts (Themberchaud the Chonky Red Dragon and a staff of portals both make appearances), this film is greatly accessible for those who have never touched Dungeons and Dragons before in their lives. It’s a lively, fast-paced romp, and its special effects are generally wonderful.
All that would be for naught if the acting wasn’t there. Chris Pine is a natural lead for comedy adventures, fantasy, and otherwise. If you need a leading man with savage comedic timing and wit, Chris Pine is the go-to. If anyone gets the idea to make a film out of the Space Quest series, Pine would be a wonderful casting for Roger Wilco. Michelle Rodriguez has excellent buddy chemistry with Pine, and Smith and Lillis both feel like naturals in a fantasy world. René-Jean Page both steals the show and chews all the scenery as a most earnest and good-hearted Paladin. Finally, Hugh Grant and Daisy Head are excellent as the villains. Oftentimes, the villains in mid-range fantasy are the best characters. I’m glad to say every lead is strong in this one.
Daley and Goldstein have written and directed a wonderful paean to the granddaddy of Tabletop Role-Playing games. While Gygax’s company TSR was eventually bought by Wizards of the Coast, which was swallowed whole by Hasbro, the fun of adventuring in this manner hasn’t faded. It’s still a great RPG, and I’m here to tell you Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a rollicking great fantasy adventure. Seek this out, and do yourself a favor and watch it on the biggest screen possible. This is so much fun.

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