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'Dungeons & Dragons'

'Dungeons' a drag Fantasy game comes to the screen in a blaze of cliches

Friday, December 08, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Much buckling is swashed in "Dungeons & Dragons," but most of it belongs to superior efforts in the fantasy genre, specifically "Star Wars" and the "Indiana Jones" saga.

'Dungeons & Dragons'

Rating: PG-13 for violence, some bloodshed and scary scenes

Starring: Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans, Thora Birch, Jeremy Irons

Director: Courtney Solomon

Web site:

Critic's call:


Based on the role-playing game that's been popular with 14-year-old fanboys (and girls) since 1974, "Dungeons & Dragons" lives up to its title by quickly showing off a dragon in a dungeon.

This opening scene establishes Jeremy Irons -- clearly slumming for what one hopes is a hefty paycheck -- as the lead bad guy, Profion. He spits and rages but can't be understood over the sound of the dragon. One of his early lines sounds like this: "With a dragon army at my command, I can -- ROAR! ROAR! ROOOOOAAAAR!"

Not that it matters. We've all seen this story so many times, dialogue is superfluous.

Fans of the role-playing game are sure to be disappointed by this "D&D" movie. The game requires imagination, but precious little imagination has been spent creating a unique plot, characters or the mythical, vaguely medieval city of Izmer (pronounce it however you like, the actors certainly do).

Everything about "Dungeons & Dragons" is recycled, which is great for the environment, but makes for lousy entertainment.

Justin Whalin, best known as the younger, more demographically friendly Jimmy Olsen No. 2 on TV's "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman," stars as Ridley, a commoner thief.

Ridley and his clumsy, greedy, miserly, shrieking, cowardly buddy Snails (Marlon Wayans, succumbing to every horrible black stereotype from days of entertainment past) break into a magic school. They're caught by a young mage, Marina (Zoe McLellan), who uses her magic to help the three escape from Profion's lead henchman, the blue-lipped Damodar (Bruce Payne).

From there they set off on a quest to retrieve a scepter (it looks like a medieval version of the car theft prevention device The Club) and save Empress Savina (Thora Birch), who wants to extend equal rights to commoners and mages alike, a move that somehow threatens Profion.

On their journey, Ridley and Snails encounter dwarves, elves and a giant floating purple eye. Don't ask, I can't tell you what it was because first-time director Courtney Solomon doesn't explain it to the audience. Must have just been eye candy, pardon the pun.

Despite the film's complete lack of originality, Solomon actually gets it going with a brisk, action-filled start, but the fantasy-genre cliches pile on quickly. They're accompanied by plot holes and little explanation of what's what in the "D&D" world.

"Dungeons & Dragons" has some nifty special effects (the rug that turns into quicksand is particularly cool), and the flying dragons at the end will appeal to some.

But the final sword battle looks like a light-saber duel and caps off the rip-offs all too well. Banish this flick to the dungeon where it belongs.

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