Admittedly, I haven’t been to the movie theaters much recently. In addition to bigger-picture world events, the busyness of working and mothering hasn’t left much leisure time — especially for activities that involve getting dressed beyond my typical “business up top, PJs down below” Zoom uniform. And if you’d told me that the first film I’d see at the movie theater in literal years would be the new Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, I’m not sure I would have believed you. Yet, it turned out to be the perfect movie to mark my family’s return to the theater.
Let me preface this by saying that while an estimated 20 million people have played Dungeons & Dragons, I am not one of them. I knew of it, of course. Dungeons & Dragons — aka D&D or DnD — is a cultural phenomenon like few others. First published in 1974, this fantasy tabletop role-playing game is often credited for kicking off the entire modern role-playing game industry. And while many similar games have surfaced since its beginning, D&D has managed to remain the best-known and best-selling game of its kind in the United States. Its popularity has spawned an animated TV series, an official role-playing soundtrack, novels, comics, video games, and an early-aughts film series — plus, as you know by now, the new movie from Paramount Pictures.
Spoiler alert: My entire family loved it. We’re already talking about returning to the theater (we’re on a roll) to rewatch it. It’s that good. Keep reading for all the reasons Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is worth a trip to the movie theater.
1. You don’t have to be a D&D fan to enjoy it.
As we’ve established, I’ve never played D&D before. Neither has my oldest child, a young teen. My husband and tween son both have, so I knew going in that at least they had a frame of reference for what we were about to see. But we all loved the movie, which is exactly what directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (aka Sweets from Bones!) were going for.
“You don’t need any prior knowledge — we’ve been hearing that from people who have seen it now,” Goldstein tells Scary Mommy. “Those who love the game are thrilled by it. Those who don’t know anything about the game aren’t thrown by it. That was very much our mission.”
2. Two words: ensemble cast.
You can’t ask for much more than this all-star cast of Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, Hugh Grant, Daisy Head, and Chloe Coleman. There are even a few big-name cameos I won’t spoil for you. And the chemistry between the cast? Incredible.
When we interviewed the cast, we could barely squeeze in a conversation with Lillis and Smith (who play Doric and Simon, respectively) through their back-and-forth banter and laughter. When we asked Rodriguez and Pine (who play Holga and Edgin, respectively) about their dynamic, Rodriguez replied, “We hit the lotto. We’re so different, but we complement each other. So, we’re lucky that way.”
3. There are owlbears.
If you’re a D&D fan, this is not a spoiler; owlbears are classic monsters in D&D lore. “They’re strong, powerful creatures that can beat up red wizards,” Lillis tells us. Suffice it to say, they’re pretty cool.
4. It’s really, really funny.
We laughed so much while watching this movie. The one-liners, the dialogue, the physical comedy — it’ll all have you rolling. According to Page, who plays a very noble and serious paladin by the name of Xenk, the cast kept each other cracking up, too.
“It was painful, but I think that this is the pain that we all enjoyed,” he says of trying to keep a straight face during scenes. “It was about kind of pushing each other and seeing how far we could take these jokes.”
5. What went on behind the scenes sounds like just as much fun.
For starters, the cast prepared for their roles in a unique way: by playing D&D together. Jokes Smith, “All of us would scream over each other when playing, which I don’t know if that’s how you play.” Lillis, who was apparently the most practiced of the cast at playing the game, spilled the tea on Pine’s D&D prowess (or lack thereof), sharing, “Chris just kept using one spell: animal friend spell. But at one point, he just falls into this really big pit and he’s going to die. And I bet instead of doing it, he says, ‘Animal Friendship Spell.’ It was his answer for everything.”
In between filming and wild bouts of D&D gaming, the cast apparently also listened to — and sang — a lot of ‘90s rap. “I know my conscious hip-hop, you know what I mean? A lot of Tribe. Souls of Mischief,” Pine admits, before crediting Smith’s impressive musical knowledge. “No, you too,” Rodriguez counters. “You know your lyrics, man.”
6. You’ll want to give D&D a try when you finish the film.
Walking out of the theater, my son asked if we could all play D&D together. So, not only did the movie entertain us through two hours and 14 minutes of theater time, but it may very well give us a new family hobby. But where do you even start if you’ve never played?
“Don’t be nervous,” Lillis says. “I feel like people are nervous because it’s very technical — a lot of math and stuff. But remember, you’re doing this with friends … you can be whoever you want and can do whatever you want. There’s also no age limit on this thing, so don’t think you’re too old or too young to play.”
7. It’ll take you back to the golden era of epic adventure movies.
It’s not an understatement to say Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is an epic adventure. There’s a quest to retrieve a lost relic, colorful characters, dragons (and other mystical creatures, ahem, owlbears), swordplay, near-death experiences — all the trappings. What struck me was how much it took me back to movies from my youth like The NeverEnding Story.
When asked if they had any classic movie-making touchstones like that in mind going into making the film, Goldstein and Daley cite the exact type of movies I had in mind: Indiana Jones, Willow, Jurassic Park, Star Wars, and, yep, The NeverEnding Story.
“All the movies where you just get caught up in a world,” explains Goldstein. “It’s about a group of ragtag misfits trying to stay alive.”
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is now playing.