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Bad script, weak plot, crummy acting rule supreme
'Dungeons & Dragons': dumb & dreadful
(CNN) -- "Dungeons & Dragons," which is based on a teen-age role-playing game that used to be all the rage, is like "Star Wars" with the flavor chewed out of it.
That said, it's almost pointless for a critic to dismiss this sort of effects-laden fantasy film. The minute you do, the genre's pre-existing audience is out for blood -- if you don't like the movie, it's solely because you're not a fan of this type of escapism. It couldn't possibly be because the movie stinks.
Well, this one does.
It's so poorly executed, you start to feel like you're watching the world's most expensive script run-through. Director Courtney Solomon just sticks it up on the screen and hopes for the best. He seems incapable of building tension from scene to scene, and he's an extremely poor judge of comic relief.
To top it all off, several of his cast members wouldn't look out of place in a Burger King commercial. This is unimpressive filmmaking, no matter how enthralled you may be by computer imagery.
Hapless hero, irritating sidekick
Justin Whalin plays the hero, Ridley Freeborne. The story, for what it's worth, consists mostly of Ridley and several sidekicks trying to keep the beloved Empress Savina (Thora Birch) in her position of power.
Whalin is quite a bit less than dashing, a real drawback when you consider Ridley is essentially "Dungeons & Dragons"' Luke Skywalker figure. His all-powerful adversary is Damodar (Bruce Paye), an armor-plated warrior who, in a move reminiscent of Nancy Sinatra, wears blue-gray lipstick. Scores of computer-generated beasties are also thrown in for good measure.
Ridley's best buddy, a goofy coward named Snails, is played by Marlon Wayans. The inexplicable box office bonanza of "Scary Movie" (2000) will keep Wayans and his equally unnecessary brothers working for years to come, but his reliance on face-making and bug-eyed yelping is more suitable to painfully shallow satire than this movie's action-fantasy theatrics. Wayans must have been a scream when he was in the second grade. Someone should alert him that class was dismissed about 20 years ago.
The continually complaining love interest, Marina (Zoe McLellan), is a promising apprentice at a magic school who takes it on the lam with Ridley and Snail when Damodar kills her wizardly teacher.
Worst movie of 2000?
McLellan, to be charitable, is currently ill-equipped for movie stardom. Her approach to the character consists of gasping a lot -- over and over and over again. When she's supposed to be afraid, she squinches up her face and tries to cry, but don't worry: It's not long before she's gasping again.
Incredibly enough, Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons is also on hand, playing the bad guy who wants to usurp Empress Savina's power. He's only around for a few minutes, just long enough to be properly displayed in the TV commercials.
You'd think an actor of Irons' stature would be embarrassed to play a mystically tinged scene with an obvious valley girl like Birch. But Irons snarls with such thespian abandon that Birch was probably embarrassed.
The only remotely memorable scene is an airborne battle featuring hundreds of nasty-looking dragons. They swoop and dive like living World War I planes, and the wipe-outs are pretty cool. Everything else looks like clips from "Krull" (1983).
Borderline inept, "Dungeons & Dragons" is one of the worst movies of the year. If it had only been released a few weeks later, it could have been one of the worst movies of next year.
"Dungeons & Dragons" is violent, in a cartoonish way. It may frighten younger children, but kids today are pretty resilient. Be warned: One character has snakes literally coming out of his ears. And you think you've got problems. Rated PG-13. 107 minutes.
New Line Cinema, which produced the film, is owned by Time Warner, which is the parent company of CNN.
Dungeons & Dragons
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