Local student Brady Burkett shares his reviews of movies that have recently been shown, or will be shown, at the Fox Theatre on Queen Street East in the Beach.
By BRADY BURKETT
Last year, when I reviewed Bullet Train, I lamented the lack of blockbusters nowadays that feel like real effort has been put into them. For a long time now, the genre has instead been populated by soulless corporate slop without a single ounce of love or passion, formulaic to the point where it is a genuine discussion whether or not the industry could be taken over by A.I.
I noted that Bullet Train felt like a real exception, a blast of energetic, creative fun that, although not without its flaws, felt like a refreshing pond in a desert of mediocrity. This year, that pond has come in the form of Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, or DaD: HAT as I will be abbreviating it throughout this review because it’s a funny acronym.
You are probably surprised to hear this, as this movie was unfortunately advertised like any other dime-a-dozen CGI-fest trying to bank off of the success of Marvel, and largely because of this the film did very poorly at the box office. This is truly unfortunate, as DaD:HAT is some of the best fun you can have at the movies this year. Much like Bullet Train, it’s far from flawless, but it is the rock-solid and extremely funny adventure movie we’ve been missing for a long time.
DaD:HAT begins with a bard and barbarian, played by Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez, escaping from jail after having been caught attempting to steal a tablet that can supposedly bring the bard’s wife back to life. They return to their hometown only to find that it’s been taken over by a con man to whom the bard entrusted the tablet and his daughter, and thus they assemble a ragtag and extremely incompetent group of rebels to break into his castle and get the bard’s daughter and the tablet back. It’s an uncomplicated plot, and indeed the first 30 minutes or so spent setting it up are easily the weakest of the movie, featuring an overload of awkward exposition and mediocre humour.
Fortunately, once the team has been established the movie picks up greatly, and only gets better and better as it goes on.
The characters are all extremely likable and portrayed with charm to spare, but beyond that most of them go through surprisingly compelling and well-developed character arcs throughout the adventure. Topping it all off is Hugh Grant, who absolutely steals the movie as the delightfully campy and hilarious villain who you love to hate. The other minor show-stealer is Rege-Jean Page as the overly serious hero guiding our main characters through the adventure, providing a hysterical dynamic where the rest of the cast all acknowledge his extreme competence but also sort of hate how much of a wet blanket he is.
Speaking of extreme competence, that’s probably the most impressive thing about the film to me. That sounds like a backhanded compliment, but it is true. It’s remarkable in our current landscape to have such a straightforwardly “good” movie. The humour consistently lands, it’s shot and edited extremely well (this one is a real rarity), there are obvious but still well-crafted setups and payoffs. The adventure is for the most part just an excuse to move the characters from set piece to set piece, but these set pieces are entertaining and frequently funny, my personal favourites involving a graveyard and the characters attempting to cross a bridge.
There is also a good amount of heart layered throughout, and it’s done in such an effective and sincere way that even though you pretty much exactly know beat-for-beat how the character arcs and emotional moments will go, they’re so effectively written and these characters are so likable that it still manages to properly invest you. There is a fake out death scene towards the end that you can predict the outcome of a mile away, but it’s a fake out death scene that manages to land nonetheless.
A lot of this is due to the film’s refreshing sincerity, in that it manages to be for the most part unserious without feeling insecure. There are frequent jokes throughout, but they are for the most part either situational or character-based, rather than lampshade hanging or “Well THAT just happened!”
The film also knows when to slow the jokes down and let emotional moments simply breathe, whereas lesser movies would attempt to undercut such scenes with a joke. A good example of this is a scene where the barbarian is clearly upset and in an attempt to cheer her up, the bard starts singing a song to her. I was bracing myself for the inevitable and cringeworthy banter about how stupid such a thing is, but instead the barbarian happily joins in.
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is not perfect, with a weak first half-hour and some pacing issues in the middle, but it’s a movie created with such clear passion and love that it’s extremely refreshing in our current landscape.
I was never bored or unattentive at any point, and I was invested in seeing our heroes overcome the odds and win out in the end. It’s nothing that’ll leave you thinking about really difficult themes once it’s over, but it doesn’t have to either. Sometimes movies can just be fun, and that fun will be preferably also well-made. DaD:HAT is both, and I can’t recommend it enough.
I give it a rating of eight of out 10.
The Fox Theatre is located at 2236 Queen St. E. Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is scheduled to be screened at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 1, at the Fox. For more information on upcoming films playing at the Fox, please visit https://www.foxtheatre.ca
EDITOR’S NOTE: Brady Burkett is a local resident and high school student. The opinions in the reviews are his, and the reviews are not sponsored or vetted by the Fox Theatre.