Your Highness (2011) / Comedy-Fantasy
MPAA Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity, violence and some drug use
Running time: 102 min.
Cast: Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Justin Theroux, Zooey Deschanel, Rasmus Hardiker, Toby Jones, Charles Dance, Damian Lewis
Director: David Gordon Green
Screenplay: Danny McBride, Ben Best
Danny McBride (Up in the Air, The Heartbreak Kid) and James Franco (127 Hours, Spider-Man 3) star in this comedic fantasy sword-and-sorcery adventure that resembles a bad Mel Brooks farce (an opening scene with 'midgets' would be at home of any number of Brooks' off-color films) if he were to have completely given up halfway through. McBride stars as the underachieving, booze-swilling Thadeous, the older brother to the heir to the kingdom's throne, the gallant and brave Fabious. Fabious is betrothed to the nearly feral virgin Belladonna (Deschanel, Yes Man), but on the date of his wedding, she is kidnapped by the evil wizard Leezar (Theroux, Miami Vice). Fabious has no choice but to quest to get his fair maiden back, with Thadeous coerced by his father (Dance, Scoop), the king, to assist in the obtaining of a mystical sword to take the nearly impervious Leezar out once and for all Fraught with peril, they are soon joined by a ferocious female warrior named Isabel (Portman, No Strings Attached), who wants to take Leezar down to avenge her family's honor.
Only sporadically funny, and when it is, it's not as uproarious as it should be, Your Highness is a very predictable, hackneyed sword-and-sorcery adventure that infuses anachronistic 21st Century dialogue, dick jokes, and foul language. Thought 'High' is featured prominently in the title, there is only one scene surrounding getting high, though in order to find many of the jokes remotely funny, you might have to smoke a bowl or two while the film plays, and no doubt quite a few were laid to waste at the time the story was being conceived. Many of the attempts at humor are merely dropping in F-bombs and the S-word during fairly standard sentences, or off-the-cuff references to sex, masturbation and the penises of the main characters. Sadly, what attempts there are at actual humor without vulgarity lay mostly dormant, and a few prolonged action scenes are so disgustingly full of blood and gore that they shift the tone further into the tasteless realm than even the barrage of sex and poop jokes can do. In one instance, the penis of a slain foe is worn as a trophy around the neck of Thadeous, and that's one of the film's funnier gags to make you gag.
It doesn't help that star and co-scripter (and co-producer) Danny McBride is not anything one might confuse with an action hero. It also doesn't help that McBride's longtime friend, director David Gordon Green, primarily has experience crafting sensitive and quirky, small-scale art-house dramas (George Washington, All the Real Girls) with odd characters that have no farce, slapstick, action sequences or special effects. He shows he is definitely no Mel Brooks when it comes to ribald satires, as his attempt to stage the comedy is as futile as his previous effort, The Pineapple Express (which featured both Franco as and McBride in a supporting role), and the result appears ugly, with bright textures, phony-looking backdrops, and wounds that look every bit of the CG quality they are. The only notably impressive part of the film comes through the hair, make-up and costume work, which are on par with a good production in the medieval fantasy realm.
Though the film boasts a plethora of recognizable faces, this is really McBride's vehicle, catering to the crowd that enjoys his brand of humor. Franco gets plenty of screen time, and he's adequate, but one can barely remember much of his performance once it's all said and done. Portman gives the film a shot in the arm in terms of energy, but she doesn't appear until about the halfway point, and outside of showing quite a bit of skin, she lends very little to the actual humor quotient. The rest are a smorgasbord of dead-on-arrival characters, especially the normally memorable Deschanel in a performance that barely registers, not the least of which is a mechanical bird that has no discernable purpose in the film, except perhaps as a non-humorous spoof of Clash of the Titans. Perhaps McBride and co-screenwriter Ben Best got high one day during a "Fantasy Films of the 1980's Marathon" and set to work on a script to incorporate a hodge-podge of story ideas to wrap their usual shtick around, then never bothered to polish the rough draft.
Your Highness is a sloppy, half-baked attempt at a big screen comedy that tosses all, including the kitchen sink, to the wall in order to drum up some laughs and few of the gags manage to stick. If you 'teehee' whenever you hear someone utter a bad word, regardless of context, or you're just a die-hard McBride fan, you're possibly the only audience who might consider this time and money well spent. Basically, this juvenile pothead comedy is likely only to appeal to juveniles or potheads. If you fall outside of this demographic, there aren't many highs in Your Highness.
©2011 Vince Leo