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With Dungeons & Dragons, Chris Pine Strikes a Perfect Chord

Around thirty-five years ago, my brother and I would wake up on Saturday mornings and watch Dungeons & Dragons, the cartoon about kids who ride a roller coaster that magically hurls them into the world of D&D, each taking on one of the various player classes as they vowed to stop an evil wizard and get back to their lives in the real world. It was the second best thing to happen on Saturday morning.

(The best thing to happen on Saturday morning was Pirates of Dark Water, even though it only had, like, three episodes.)

These aren’t the kinds of shows people take seriously. That’s why most fantasy stories in the mainstream end up being what’s called “low” fantasy, which means there’s lots of drama and lots of people covered in mud, but very little magic or monsters. It's hardly fantastic at all, if you ask me.

The thing is, fantasy is insanely popular. Yes, it’s considered lame by anyone who has a house in New York, and you don’t win fancy acting awards when you pretend you’re a wizard or an elf. Actors have famously run from these roles because it’s career poison when your friends in L.A. learn you played a part that was actually fun when you could have starred in an indie project about a family torn apart by an affair. How dare you pick a project people might actually watch?

But while the elitists look down their noses at anything with magic and monsters (and anyone with the audacity to actually enjoy their lives) the masses adore fantasy.

So it’s about time someone, like Chris Pine, finally gave people what they want. Enough with trying to be taken seriously. Why not have some fun?

And this movie is all kinds of fun.

The hardest part of telling a story like this is nailing the tone. It would be a drag if this movie took itself too seriously. But it can't look like a silly kids show, either. (In fact, the cast of the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon shows up, and, uh, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but I’m not sure those kids are getting back to the amusement park.)

It only takes a few moments to start rooting for our heroes. The opening caper is hysterically bold, and comically unnecessary. You’ve got to love them right away. Naturally, they get twisted up in a big stop-the-evil-lich plot, and if you have a fun-loving bone in your body you’ll be excited to go along for the ride.

And they didn’t gloss over the dorky stuff. There’s an owlbear. A tiefling. Brain-eating monsters who, of course, walk right past our heroes without a glance. (Because you’re hard-pressed to find an adventuring party that has two intelligence points to rub together.) Bigsby’s Grasping Hand battling another Bigsby’s Grasping Hand. Gelatinous cubes. Counterspells. This is a nerd’s playground, and it wanders through familiar places like the Sword Coast, Baldur’s Gate, and the Underdark. For many of us, it was like going home.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves doesn’t miss a note. Every scene is a perfect balance of humor, adventure, and a sense of magical wonder, and the only low point is when the credits roll and you realize your roller coaster ride has come to an end, dropping you back into the real world.

That’s okay. There's enough sequel hooks to make Marvel jealous. We’ll be back.

Final Analysis: I rate this movie 20 out of 20. Naturally.

Adam D. Jones is a fantasy author and a life-long nerd who knows you can't kill a lich without destroying its phylactory.


  1. Just went last night and immensely enjoyed myself. The story was solid and funny, and the exposition was skillful - there was a lot of information given but it never felt like an info dump and it was done in a way that someone who would miss the easter eggs would still be able to enjoy the movie. There were numerous scenes that felt like pple around a table playing d&d from side comments to failed plans to crazy shenanigans that somehow work.

  2. Nonei, that's exactly how I felt. Just the right amount of lore and fun.


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