By Brian Rentschler
Short version: One of the most unintentionally funny movies I have ever seen, and one of the worst. Perfect for those who can truly appreciate terrible movies, a frustrating waste of time for everyone else.
Some things in life simply can’t be explained rationally. To that list, I proudly add the fact that this hilariously bad adaptation of Dungeons and Dragons was ever made, let alone shown in theaters. At first, the idea of a D&D movie was a beacon of hope to all who had been ridiculed for participating in the allegedly popular role-playing game. After nearly a decade of struggling, first-time director Courtney Solomon had finally managed to acquire the rights to Dungeons and Dragons and convinced New Line Cinema to make his movie. This lavish $35 million production, shot in Prague and executive produced by Joel Silver of The Matrix and Lethal Weapon fame, was to be the long-awaited vindication for the dedicated and faithful devotees of D&D.
After the movie was released, the merciless critical drubbing and the ice-cold box office results made all those D&D devotees long for the good ol’ days, before the movie was released. But make no mistake, this movie bears only one similarity to the actual role-playing game, and that’s the title.
This easily ranks among the worst movies I have ever seen. Best watched in the presence of friends or family members who can appreciate terrible movies, this will have you rolling in laughter. Nearly every scene in the movie is shamelessly ripped off from better movies such as the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series. To paraphrase the old saying, good filmmaking is like makeup — you only notice when it’s not there. In that sense, this movie sticks out like a sore thumb. Full of inept direction and over-the-top hamola acting, it has to be seen to be believed.
To the filmmakers’ credit, the movie actually starts out with some promise. There’s a rather confusing voiceover at the beginning (never a good sign), but then the camera does some pretty impressive flight sequences all the way into the evil dungeon. From there, things go quickly downhill.
Let’s do a quick synopsis, but I’ll be careful to avoid spoilers, in case you want to see this train wreck yourself. The story begins in the land of Izmer, where mages and commoners are not treated equally (gasp!). Empress Savina (played to dull, wooden perfection by Thora Birch) wants to see everyone treated equally. The evil mage Profion (extremely overacted by Jeremy Irons) wants to unseat the empress and rule Izmer himself. Naturally, Profion has a henchman, whose name is Damodar. Bruce Payne, who plays Damodar, hams up his scenes as if he took acting lessons from William Shatner, and with his costume and makeup he looks like a Judas Priest reject. Ridley (Justin Whalin) and Snails (Marlon Wayans) are bumbling thieves who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Under less-than-ideal circumstances, they meet a mage named Marina (Zoe McLellan) and end up on a quest to stop Profion and save Izmer. Along the way they meet Elwood (an elf who looks taller than most of the humans) and Norda (a tracker who wears a ridiculous costume complete with nipples). Do they succeed? You get three guesses.
It’s not like the cast doesn’t have talent. Justin Whalin is an Emmy winner, and Jeremy Irons is an Oscar winner. Ironically, those two end up chewing most of the scenery with their way-over-the-top acting (especially Irons), but Marlon Wayans is quite possibly the most annoying token comedic sidekick in movie history. (Jar Jar Binks is positively enjoyable by comparison.) It’s interesting to note the general progression of Marina’s character. She starts out looking like someone’s grandmother, with a frumpy dress and her hair in a bun. A little later in the movie, she lets her hair down. Still later, the dress is replaced by tight-fitting clothes. Towards the end of the movie, she appears to be wearing a collar of some sort. I shudder to think what the movie’s PG-13 rating would have become if the movie had lasted another 20 minutes.
After you see this movie, you’ll have a hard time believing it was ever made. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll have to explain to your friends why you actually spent money renting and/or buying a movie this bad. And a good time will be had by all. I won’t give away any details, but don’t miss the pivotal scene about two-thirds of the way through the movie. It had me doing a standing ovation, complete with clapping and cheering. That scene alone made it all worthwhile. (You’ll know what I mean when you see it.)