Wednesday, April 22, 2009

IRONS AND DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS...OH MY!

Once upon a time in a land not so far away, a callow youth named Courtney Solomon had a dream. So he saved his pennies and at the tender age of 20, secured the film rights to DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, and thence pursued his Holy Grail: a big-screen version of the much-loved neo-medieval role-playing game. For 10 long years he wandered in the Holly Wood in search of the all-important Green Light, until one day he chanced upon the Lord of High Concepts (Sir Joel of the Silver). A meeting was taken and thence, "a Courtney Solomon film" was born.

Talented actors signed on for big paychecks, but now, so close to his dream, the novice filmmaker refused to allow his vision to pass into the hands of those more experienced, and he himself assumed the director's chair. Some $43 million later, he had his tale of the fair Empress of Izmer, whose rule is threatened by an evil mage (or magician.) With the help of a dwarf, an elf, an apprentice mage and two thieves, disaster was averted . . . in Izmer. Alas, the same can not be said of the tale itself, (which stinketh like the breath of a dyspeptic dragon.) But for collectors of Bad Movies, there is a happy ending.

Laboriously expository and defiantly incomprehensible, Dungeons & Dragons seems to involve the hunt for an enchanted "rod," a threat to the prevailing "fabric of magic," the fight for democracy in the kingdom of Izmer, and the ritual humiliation of actors. In ascending order of ignominy: haughty apprentice mage bland Zoe McLellan; Skywalkerish commoner Justin Whalin (the new Sean Patrick Flanery or the new Robert Sean Leonard? Discuss); his bumbling sidekick Marlon Wayans (a black character straight out of Hollywood's 1938 playbook); Glenn Close-channeling Jeremy Irons; and fair-minded empress Thora Birch, (who models a series of headpieces cribbed from '70s disco album sleeves and throughout sustains the impression of having learned her lines phonetically.)

Those schooled in the arcana of the phenomenally successful fantasy role playing game can best rule on whether Solomon's live action adaptation is a faithful depiction of its obsessive world of elves, dwarfs, and winged things, but even a babe in dungeonland can see that the leading fire breather in this malty brew of heroics and minutiae isn't a computer generated creature, but Jeremy Irons as the archvillain Profion. All goggle-eyes, exaggerated double takes and full-throated oratory, Irons howls, whispers and rages, as he struts about in Olivier's 'Hamlet' eyeliner. Luxuriously bellowing immortal lines like ''You! Are! Mine! Now!', he attacks and guzzles every shred of scenery as if he were playing King Lear at a suburban community theater. "With a dragon army at my command I can crush the empress!" he cries joyfully, bending at the waist and making little claws out of his hands. (It's Bad Movie Nirvana!)

As Irons henchman Damodar, Bruce Payne runs a close second. A bald and burly centurion, Payne goes through the movie wearing metallic blue lipstick, (an obvious but puzzling reference to Petula Clark), terrorizing heroes Whalin and Wayans, whose destiny is to save the world - or whatever.

With his long, chestnut lashes, cherubic cheeks and silky complexion, Whalen is significantly prettier than his female love interest - wholesome, magic-wielding librarian Zoe McLellan. Aided by a lissome elf and a grumpy dwarf, our heroes embarks on a quest involving glowing rubies and secret scrolls. McLellan decides to join them, and after she kisses Whalen her glasses disappear and her backswept math-girl hairdo is magically transformed into a hipper center-part. Our heroic group must battle Payne for possession of a powerful thingummy that can control red dragons, which may or may not be bigger and meaner than the regular green kind. The thingummy itself is called a "rod," but strongly resembles our poolboy's Dragon Bong. (Don't ask.) A connection to the true Dungeons & Dragons universe at last!

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