Saturday, March 12, 2011

Weekend Wasted—Episode 1

Dungeons and Dragons (2000)

After my wife and a friend exclaimed about Jeremy Irons on a Law and Order episode, I used it as an excuse to come to terms with Dungeons and Dragons, a movie I never saw because it looked like crap.

A truly awful movie can be a joy to behold, at least in the comfort and privacy of home. In the case of Dungeons and Dragons, joy may not be the primary feeling involved, but it does come bearing many gifts: feats of lousy acting, bizarre stupidity, feeble theft from greater films, and a dragon's hoard of floppy cliches. How much does this movie stink? Let us count the ways.

1. It has a Wayans brother. As soon as the tale begins you'll get to see him in action. This Lesser Wayans is the first, best sign that you've boarded the chump train. You might be like me and point him out with the same weary dread that Boromir used in Fellowship of the Ring when he said in Moria, "They've got a cave troll…." “They have a Wayans.”
2. It has a Beholder, but they don't do anything with it.
3. The effects are weak-ass. The only inventive visual comes when a Persian rug turns into a pit of oatmealy quicksand, and even that isn't mind-blowing.
4. Most of the actors can't even be bothered to adopt a faux British accent to boost their medieval mojo. There are some very non-human races who speak modern casual. For instance, a blue guy with a third eye in his forehead who sounds like he works at Fast & Friendly.
5. The main badass villain, the Darth Vader to Jeremy Irons's Emperor, has nonsensical blue lips.
6. Just when you think you might be treated to one scintilla of originality, that doesn't happen.
7. Some of the weakest fight scenes ever filmed. As if no one ever planned, trained, practiced, or cared. Most of the fights count on the scene being very crowded with people, so they just scramble around and bump into each other, but with swords in their hands.
8. Rip-off Town: Take the Princess and the Emperor from Star Wars, take Gimli, Elrond, Sam & Frodo, and the giant tree from LotR, take a brain-worm vaguely like Chekov’s ear-grubs from Wrath of Khan, run your hero through a maze challenge kind of like Indiana Jones, then mash them all together into a charmless gruel.
9. Apparently, the good guys dissolve into fairy dust at the end and follow the dead Wayans brother to heaven! Jesus Christ.

Talking Points:
• When Ghost World came out, Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson seemed equal. When did Thora Birch officially lose the fame race with Scarlett Johansson? Either at birth or when this movie came out, depending on your level of cynicism.
• Lord of the Rings was in production when this movie came out. Did they just rush it out to cash in on sword-and-sorcery fever?
• Why would anyone make shit like this?
• There is a theme of class warfare built into the script, where Mages are the ruling class and likened to the rich and powerful. Everyone else is poor, powerless, and rag-tag. This socio-economic theme is resolved by a computer-generated ruckus of fire-breathing red dragons.

Cast of Characters:
• Two thief buddies—Some Fucking Wayans and Bland Young Stud. They are the embodiment of the worst in buddy movies, plus a bit of Abbott and Costello. SFW is supposed to be hilarious because he's both cowardly and flirty, while BYS is supposed to be full of admirable gumption and loyalty. It is a relief when SFW dies, and a constant worry that he’ll be resurrected by magic.
• Empress Thora Birch—She dresses and functions just like Princess Amidala in Star Wars, except when she rides a dragon, in which case she wears a secondhand Penthouse magazine Joan of Arc get-up.
• Foodbeard the Dwarf—he’s like a homeless Gimli, but with a lot less class. He gets so much food in his beard throughout the movie that it often resembles a beard of vomit. Between this and his overly expressive face, he is the second best presence in the movie, because he is unapologetically moronic.
• S&M Spock Elf—She’s a mysterious battle-bitch with above average skills. She looks like a Vulcan, but wears a sky-blue Madonna-tits breastplate, pastel plate-mail, and leather work gloves from Race Brothers Farm Supply. When Bland Young Stud is stabbed in the collar, he swoons like Morgul-blade Frodo and she takes him to be healed by her Elf-lord father, faux-Elrond. He chides the humans: “You USE magic… WE are PART of it.” All eyes moisten with wonder.
• Cut-rate Anne Hathaway—sort of a magical grad student. Semi-hot; moistly harmless.
• Blue-lipped Prick—Bad guy who is so bad he’s really bad. He stabs, beats, and lies under the command of Jeremy Irons, who controls him with a mean-looking brain parasite. Potentially one of the more interesting items in the film, but it fizzles predictably.
• Jeremy Irons— When things get serious, he takes off his white clothes and puts on his black clothes. Everyone knows he can act, but he does his best to prove otherwise. Maybe he’s trying to beat his co-stars to the Shit Trophy. The director must have told Jeremy Irons to act to the point of seizure, because that’s what he does.
• There’s this talking skeleton tied to the wall of the dragon’s treasure chamber. He is the best actor in the film, and I commend him.


The two buddies have to steal things in lively fashion, because they are thieves. Right up the street there must be ripe pickings at the Magic School, so they break in to steal. The smarty-pants grad-student girl nabs them with a magic binding spell. They argue about their values and begin building a little sexual tension. Then they all run around. Meanwhile, Jeremy Irons throws caution to the wind and fucks with red dragons, bending them to his will whilst twisting his teeth into various grimaces. Then they all run around. The good guys have to do some feats of skill to win a map from the Lord of Thieves. They win, but he screws them over because he’s the biggest thief, and laughs at the concept of “honor among thieves.” Blue-lipped Prick shows up and they all run around. Soothingly, the Prick kills the Wayans brother. The remaining good guys follow the map and get to the dragon’s lair, where they steal a gem, put it in a secret slot, and get magical results. Thora Birch rides a dragon in her Penthouse Joan of Arc suit, winning the hour. A pissed-off red dragon bites the bejeezus out of Jeremy Irons in the Superbowl of dragon fights, which plays like a video game. Then they have a modest funeral for the Wayans brother, and—I fucking shit you not—they all turn to fairy twinkles and rise into the air!

Did my friend Chris DeLozier write this in junior high when he was our dungeon master?


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