If you’re gonna make a movie out of a nerd-porn tabletop game, this is probably the way to do it. Honor Among Thieves never concerns itself with character classes, hit points, or will saves. Instead, we get a rollicking lark of a movie, stocked with quippy ragamuffins who do everything but wink at the camera. For the most part, this freewheeling sense of fun pays off. After all, D&D isn’t so much about the big boss fight as it is the treasure, booby traps, and the adventure along the way. If the game is to ever connect with a broader audience, an amiable, well-cast action-comedy like this might be its best shot.
The story is drawn from the game’s Forgotten Realms campaign, which is, you know, a thing that apparently exists. We open on Edgin (Chris Pine) and Holga (Michelle Rodriguez), locked up in a supermax pokey for fantastical beings. He’s a bard (or, a charming lute player who occasionally whacks people in the head with it). She’s a barbarian (or, a brawny fighter who knows fifty ways to kill someone with an axe). Edgin was once a peacekeeping family man, until he crossed the wrong people, and tragedy ensued. He bottomed out, formed a platonic bond with Holga, and they entered a life of crime together.
Along the way, Edgin and Holga picked up a crew of lovable rapscallions to round out their capers. These include: Simon (Justice Smith), a struggling wizard who can only conjure the smell of fresh-cut grass; Forge (Hugh Grant), a rogue whose main superpower is that he can tell charming lies. They’ll later add Doric (Sophia Lillis), a druid who can assume the form of just about any animal, and Xenk (Regé-Jean Page), a do-gooder paladin. Conveniently, this squad has just the versatility for a typical D&D adventure.
Until, of course, they pull the requisite One Job Too Many. Edgin and Holga get nicked, and soon end up in the titular dungeons. Do they break out? You can bet all your hit dice on it. The filmmakers do stage a pretty funny escape scene, and it sets the stage for all the shenanigans to follow.
On the outside, Edgin gets the band back together for another heist movie trope: One Last Job. Turns out, there’s a magical MacGuffin that could resurrect Ed’s dead wife and put his past mistakes right. The only problem? Ol’ Forge has–literally–gone rogue. He’s seized the kingdom of Neverwinter for himself and is raising Edgin’s daughter (Chloe Coleman) as his own. To make matters worse, Forge has also recruited a powerful necromantic sorceress (Daisy Head) for protection, making him almost untouchable.
This sets off a grand adventure, as our scrappy underdogs must figure out a way to take down the baddies and put Edgin’s family back together. Thankfully, directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (who co-write with Michael Gilio) don’t burden their story with the prohibitive minutiae of the game. That means noobs like me don’t have to worry with a character’s class or the name of a certain spell. Everything is easy to follow, and we don’t need crib sheets to do it.
The cast greatly helps this newfound accessibility. Pine’s comedy chops have always been underrated, and he plays cute sass to perfection. Rodriguez is also perfect as the skull-splitting badass who, naturally, has a gooey emotional center. Finally, Grant has a ball as the obnoxious cad. His swaggering, silver-tongued villain is one of the best things in the whole movie.
If there’s a flaw in this hootenanny of might and magic, it’s that Thieves doesn’t know when to quit. 134 minutes is way too long for movie built around a guy with an oversized ukulele and a girl who can transform into a worm. A D&D quest might be more about the journey from here to there, but if the conclusion is forgone, it’s best not to dawdle.
But that’s really the only nit I can pick with Honor Among Thieves. People who love D&D swear it’s the best time you can possibly have with a baggie of dice and and an afternoon’s worth of Mountain Dew. That fun comes across onscreen, and that’s no small accomplishment. Diehard fans may or may not love this film, but they’ll be a tough crowd with any adaptation. If newcomers can approach this like any other flyweight fantasy adventure, then Honor Among Thieves is a pretty safe bet.
134 min. PG-13. On demand.