Dungeons & Dragons (2000)

(In theaters, December 2000) A fantasy game movie adaptation filmed in Eastern Europe on a low-low-low budget. If at this point you’re not expecting total trash, you haven’t been paying attention. And, for the first ten minute, Dungeons & Dragons seems to deliver exactly what we’re expecting: Pretentious and confusing voiceover, choppy editing, uneven directing, embarrassing overacting, awful dialogues… it’s all there. But, at the ten-minute mark (as the young female mage lassoes the two thieves), something quite remarkable happens, and the film suddenly becomes entertaining in a good way, almost shamelessly daring us to have fun with it. The quality of the writing improves dramatically, the jokes fly and the direction is handled with the appropriate amount of fun. For slightly more than half an hour, we’re plunged in the heart of “Dungeons & Dragons”: Saving the world while having good fun with friends. (Around the kitchen table, with an unhealthy supply of chips and soft drinks) Alas, that fun is dashed at mid-film as soon as a main character is killed. Then the film turns somber, dour, boring and, yes, pretentious. The political scenes are naive, the overacting gets worse, Thora Birch looks like a china doll tarted up to look like a cheap Amidala ripoff and not even a liberal injection of special effects can save the film from the disappointing finale. Not a good film by any means, but at least there’s a decent stretch somewhere.

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