Dungeons & Dragons is based on the infamous role-playing game of the same name which certain young people used to get obsessively involved with, back in the ’70s and ’80s before computers came along to siphon off all that excess imagination. Directed with anonymous vigor by Courtney Solomon, it takes place in the kingdom of Izmer, which is run by a ruling class of magicians with everyone else — elves, dwarves and regular folk — making up the colorful underclass.
The main conflict here is between the idealistic young Empress Savina, played by Thora Birch, the sulky daughter from American Beauty, and the usurper Profion, played by Jeremy Irons. Birch, with her 8-year-old’s head on a woman’s body, at least looks like a fairy princess, but Irons is all wrong for his part. He may be a Brit, but he’s never been a Shakespearean thunderer; he’s more the type to raise an eyebrow while tapping a cigarette on his cuff. As Profion, who spends most of his screen time in a rage, he’s required to emote outside his comfort range and his actorly instincts seem to have dried up. He manages to seem both hysterical and wooden, which is impressive in a bad way.
In any event, Birch and Irons’ roles are like extended cameos and the struggle to obtain the magical thingee that will control the dragons (don’t ask) is mostly enacted by their proxies. Profion’s henchman is Damodar (Bruce Payne), a merciless type who’s so mean his lips are blue. Unlike Irons, Payne knows how to do a one-dimensional evil character: You just have to stare a lot and pretend that your skull is trying to burst out of your head.
Representing good is the bland young hero Ridley (Justin Whalin), his equally bland love interest (Zoe McLellan), his comic-relief sidekick Snails (Marlon Wayans doing several variations on feets-don’t-fail-me-now, none of them funny), a disgusting dwarf and an elf who looks like a Vulcan fashion model. The hero goes through many trials and evil is finally defeated (hope I didn’t spoil it for you).
This isn’t a dreadful movie, just routine and a little uninvolving. If I were 10 years old, I might even find it mildly entertaining. But I’m not.
E-mail Richard C. Walls at email@example.com.