Quick Synopsis: A ragtag group of misfits go on a fetch quest.
Dungeons And Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (or to give it the title it should have if it’s spelt correctly: Dungeons And Dragon: Honour Among Thieves. Or as a shorter title: DADHAT) is actually the fourth Dungeons And Dragons movie, the previous ones starring Jeremy Irons, Marlon Wayans, and Thora Birch. Well, I say “previous ones”, they were all in the first one. The other two feature actors who are…..not as well known, and were released straight to DVD. So it’s fair to say expectations for this were not exactly what you’d call sky-high. Added to that, it was originally scheduled for release back in 2021, and a film being delayed by almost 2 years is never a good sign (for evidence of this: New Mutants, Morbius, and countless more). There’s not even a huge star to anchor this. Chris Pine is a good actor, sure, but he’s not at the level where members of the general public who don’t often go to the cinema will pay to see a film because he’s in it. So is there any hope for this film at all?
Turns out there is. Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (who previously directed the supremely underrated Game Night) used a sneaky trick which I suspect may help this film turn a profit. A devious and sneaky trick which other studios may want to pick up on; they made a good film. I’m surprised more studios don’t do that tbh, it could become a trend. In fact, I’m hoping it does.
Now I’m not saying this is a great film, but it is definitely better than it needs to be. There’s a scene where a shapeshifter runs through a building and outside to her friends, they could have done this in any manner of ways to make their job easier. Instead; it’s one long continuous shot. That was completely unnecessary, nobody would have criticised it for going slightly cheaper by having the transformations happen off-screen (so a mouse runs behind a curtain, a tiger runs out etc), or even if they only did two transformations. Instead, it’s like the directors WANTED to make things difficult for themselves, and I admire that.
It’s moments like that that make you realise that DADHAT was made by people who actually gave a shit about what they were making. This extends to the performance too; Daisy Head (daughter of English Vampire/Richmond FC botherer Anthony Head, not relevant, but I only just discovered that and wanted to share it) spends most of the film with more make-up than [insert name of a woman that the internet has decided it hates now] and is still giving it everything. Hugh Grant is clearly in the “shits and giggles” stage of his career. It’s said that some struggling actors base decisions on what will allow them to eat that month. Hugh Grant definitely does that, only the thing he eats is the scenery, which he chews like you would not believe. It’s amazing to watch and gives you the impression that everyone on set was having a lot of fun. The chemistry between the cast will make you think they’ve all worked together as an ensemble (as opposed to working individually as ensembles obviously) multiple times. Some of the performers you will know; Hugh Grant, Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, even Bradley Cooper makes a random appearance. But the “new” performers more than earn their spot. Rege-Jean Page makes the journey from Bridgerton to Tonnes-Of-Bridges with ease. I wouldn’t say he’s the best performer, but he has such a magnificent screen presence that if a movie studio had any brains they’d sign him to lead a franchise. Justice Smith continues to be an entertaining presence (as he was in Detective Pikachu). My personal favourite is Sophia Lillis (best known from IT, Sharp Objects, and I Am Not Okay With This). Her performance as Doric is a delight to watch and I hope leads to even more for her in the future.
So what stops me from enjoying this even more? Because there are a few things it does badly. It’s difficult to take the threat seriously, because at times it feels like the characters aren’t. They do show fear when directly facing an enemy, and they do talk about their worries, but they also spend too much time making jokes about the situation they’re in. So because the characters don’t take it seriously, the audience doesn’t either, so there’s no tension. The attempt at emotion doesn’t really ring true. Finally, the “final boss” so to speak isn’t pushed as a big threat either, she barely gets a chance to flex her villainous muscles before she’s defeated.
Wait, underwhelming villain, tonally inappropriate jokes, zero tension, CGI Bradley Cooper, a final battle that is just CGI, and a lead actor called Chris. Is DADHAT part of the MCU?