That the sequel went straight to video should tell you just how successful the first one was: not at all.
Directed by Courtney Solomon, “Dungeons & Dragons” is a tedious adventure that tries hard to wow viewers with spectacle, forgetting about the story. As it stands, tricksters and wannabe magicians Ridley and Snails (Justin Whalin and Marlon Wayans) run afoul of the tyrannical Profion (Jeremy Irons, who chews the fat like he has to eat the whole 72-ounce steak to get it for free) and his sidekick, Damodar (Bruce Payne), who is bald and has bluish-purple lips and tiny snakes that come out of his ears. Thora Birch is entirely miscast, and poor Kristen Wilson has to don elf ears that make her look like Disney’s Peter Pan.
Solomon clearly relies too heavily on CGI effects (he should’ve studied how the old-school “Dragonslayer” did it), making the dragons so cartoonish, they’re not the least bit threatening. However, some of the sets are impressive. In fact, the best part of the movie is when Ridley draws sword and navigates through rooms of a dungeon laden with traps. It’s the one sequence that holds interest. (Sorry, Marlon, but your big stuck-in-quicksand scene is the stuff of embarrassing slapstick.)
Strangely, a similar booby-trapped sequence proves the highlight of 2005’s “Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God,” which somehow, despite a reduced-by-half budget, manages to be a little better than its predecessor. That still makes it not good, no matter how much promise the niftily animated credits sequence holds.
No actors return, save for Payne as Damodar, who graduates to top-tier villain status this time, but minus his lipstick. As Berek, Mark Dymond makes for an awfully bland hero, but he’s more bearable than Whalin and Wayans combined.
Both films come paired in one über-affordable, two-disc Blu-ray package, for the hard-core D&D fan. That’s not me, obviously, but there are plenty out there who may appreciate these pictures — numerous faults, nonsense and all. —Rod Lott