I’d love to tell you that Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, for its long journey to the silver screen, was worth it. I’m in the minority compared to the current 90% positive score on Rotten Tomatoes. Though it boasts a strong ensemble that ham-fists their way through the story, the story and its villains are cliched echoes endemic to modern cinema.

That’s the curious thing about modern cinema, with its repeatedly used story elements, characters, and themes. Sometimes they click, and sometimes they don’t. And, sometimes, in the case of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, it can be a mixture of the two. After all, movies are meant as an escape from our everyday doldrums.

Directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, who also co-wrote the latest screen treatment with elements from an earlier version of the story by Michael Gilio, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is the type of story that Marvel offered in its first two phases: a rip-roaring good time with an ensemble that audiences can connect with. Still, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is more Marvel than its own. Studios will produce works that generate audience interest – though they don’t always make for good movies.

My eyes rolled several times at its ham-fisted attempts to make its way through the story, though Goldstein and Daley pulled something out of the fantasy I didn’t expect: an updated take on Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy (1999). Chris Pine, whose britches are generally larger than the roles he takes on, is far more grounded here and is a lot of fun. We’ve seen his comic timing and similar stakes with Captain Kirk. The difference is in the story’s circumstances that surround him. As Edgin Darvis, the stakes for Pine’s character have never been stronger, giving the actor gravitas within his approach to the character. It also helps that Michelle Rodriguez, as Holga Kilgore, is as much Edwin’s right-hand as she is a focal point for Edgin’s family.

Justice Smith, as Simon Aumar, is a substantial part of the ensemble. The character, who doesn’t trust in his own abilities, comes across as awkward, fitting the actor to a ‘T’ As he comes into his own, though, he becomes funnier. His scenes with Rege-Jean Page’s Xenk Yendar are a riot. Sophia Lillis, as Doric, is the push against the establishment and comes in handy throughout the staged confrontations the group encounters.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a who’s-who of rogues. While the real rogues were fun, the villainous rogues were not as fun. Hugh Grant hams up his Forge Fitzwilliam just enough that it veered into annoying territory. For this reviewer, it was both a struggle and a joy – a struggle because it looked like the actor wanted to be done with his part and a pleasure because it was nice to see Grant take on such a role. It didn’t necessarily stretch his acting abilities, but how the story reveals his true nature was impressive. The film’s run time could have been shortened just a bit to tighten his character, though the staging of a duel on the level of Gladiator to make his escape was quite ingenious. Daisy Head’s Sofina, a Red Wizard of Thay, was equally unimpressive. She looks dangerously captivating. However, the story focuses on her powers rather than her as a character.

Page is Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves‘ MVP. As a critical transition character in the middle of the second act, his character raises doubts about the abilities of the ensemble while, at the same time, giving them a path forward. As Xenk, he brings humility to the film, grounding it while dryly poking fun at Smith’s Simon, reminding me a lot of Hackman and Beatty’s interactions as Lex Luthor and Otis, respectively, in Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie.

Goldstein and Daley’s story harkens back to the role-playing origins of Dungeons & Dragons. The characters and the actors that make up the leading ensemble are a strength for this adaptation, something the respective studios plan to continue with a television show geared for Paramount+. Audiences, who are far more invested in the game, will take more away from the characters. As for the story, there are enough real-world complexities that this fantasy will work for fans and general audiences. High marks are earned for Barry Peterson’s cinematography as the story spans multiple locations and a high amount of green-screen work for the computer-generated images to be inserted upon. Similarly, Lorne Balfe’s score reflects the good nature of the leading ensemble to a positive effect on the screen.

Yet, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves feels like something we’ve seen in recent years. As fun and ham-fisted as it is, it fits together a bit too quickly with too easy an out to give us further adventures. Weakly-defined villains also contribute to a less-than-stellar experience if it was compared to other fantasy-adventure stories.