– Summary –
Director : David Gordon green
Year Of Release : 2011
Principal Cast : Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Rasmus Hardiker, Toby Jones, Justin Theroux, Zooey Deschanel, Charles Dance.
Approx Running Time : 102 Minutes
Synopsis: When the fiancee of his brother, the elder Prince, is kidnapped by an evil warlock to fulfill an ancient prophecy, Thadeous must embark on a quest to rescue her. Trouble is, he’s not exactly the bravest or most knightly quest-taker ever seen, and while he thinks he’s pretty awesome, his brother Fabious is actually the one with all the skills.
What we think : Wildly uneven, populist entertainment at its most lamentable, Your Highness pokes haphazard fun at the fantasy genre and goes down swinging. The grossly unfunny Danny McBride leads this quite decent cast in a bawdy, spectacular misfire of a film, and although the production value is exceptionally good for what you’d normally describe as a Hollywood Comedy, the genuine laughs are few and far between – the only saving grace in this is James Franco’s Fabious, one of his best roles and certainly one of the funniest. Your Highness goes for an adult sense of humor in possibly the most obscure genre of film imaginable – I think they tried for a kind of Naked Gun mixed with Monty Python mixed with Harold & Kumar, and the end result is a well produced, yet patently inane romp at the expense of the viewer.
“How are you going to make me love you?”
“If your vagina is anything like my hand, there will be no problem.”
Oh dear, how Krull will never look the same to me. Imagine, if you will, a debacle of a film riding roughshod over an entire genre, an entire fantasy, and then you’d have some sort of inkling as to how weird it is to see that imagining brought to stunning life by Hollywood’s comedy cauldron. Your Highness is hardly a children’s fairy story, although elements of the classic fantasy epics are strewn about this film like spoils of war: it’s like watching Lord Of The Rings being performed by the cast of Baywatch. Without the cool swimwear. Where this film fears to tread, only jokes about necrophilia exist, because there’s seemingly no end to the juvenile humor Your Highness seeks to make you endure. That’s not to say this film isn’t without some redeeming features, it just a little hard to fathom exactly what they are, exactly. It’s a hodgepodge of sexually aggressive humor, nudity, dick and vagina jokes, all wrapped up in the comforting warmth of James Franco’s winning grin – and he grins a lot in this. Yes, Your Highness is lowbrow comedy at its finest… or worst, depending on your sense of humor.
Fabious (James Franco), the elder son of the King (Charles Dance), returns from a quest having slain a cyclops and obtained a beautiful fiancee, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel, about as hot as I’ve ever seen her), to the rapturous welcome of his father. Fabious’s younger brother, Thadeous (Danny McBride) isn’t exactly what you’d call a hero – he’s lazy, fat and has an extremely low expectation of himself: when Belladonna is kidnapped by the evil warlock Leezar (Justin Theroux), in order to fulfill an ancient prophecy by mating with the girl and creating a dragon (…?…), Fabious undertakes a new quest to rescue her and rid the world of Leezar’s power. The king orders his younger son to go too, to try and make a real man out of him, and, grumbling, Thadeous does so. As they journey on their quest, they encounter a woman also on her way to kill Leezar, although for entirely different reasons. Isabel (Natalie Portman) is a tough warrior woman, hell bent on revenge, and while at first skeptical of Thadeous’s ability in battle, eventually teams up with the pair to complete their mission. As with any quest, they encounter a variety of obstacles, including a labyrinth and an extremely well hung minotaur, as well as other fantastical inhabitants of this magical realm.
There’s so many problems with this film, I hardly know where to begin. I also don’t quite know how to tell you this, but even though Your Highness is a lamentable, incredibly undercooked concept as a film, I really, really enjoyed watching it. I’m not sure why, either, because every fibre of my being detested the majority of what I was seeing – from a logical and clinical critical perspective, this is a rank, unfunny miasma of concepts so badly deployed as a narrative it makes Michael Bay look positively Shakespearean, and yet from a sheer enjoyment point of view, I laughed my ass off with glee as Franco and McBride set about carving up the screen in one of the best made fantasy comedies ever made. Conflict, much? David Gordon Green isn’t a shoddy filmmaker, after all – his Pineapple Express remains a cult classic, his craft behind the camera has grown with every film he’s made, and this coupled with the backing of some serious money to make this film, ensures that regardless of your taste in humor, Your Highness at the very least looks and sounds stunning. The story is a loose jumble of ideas from a join-the-dots guide to making a fantasy film, from garish goblins, wise old creatures and bright, shiny knights. As well as that, you’ve got gorgeous princesses, emotionally strong and yet strangely manageable warrior women, a tribe of nude chicks surrounding a fatbody with a fetish for watching gladiatorial combat, and a central villain whose proclivities include spending time with three old crones and planning the casual rape of a beautiful woman. Oh, and somewhere in there they found time for a flying mechanical bird – a tip of the hat, I’d say, to the mechanical Bobo from Clash Of The Titans.
Your Highness is what you’d call a “kitchen sink” movie. Everything’s in there, almost every kind of genre collage and trope, from wenches to wizards and betrayals and beheadings. Magic, wizardry, a curse, a prophesy, an imbecile hoping to become something more by virtue of his inherent bravery and guile – yes, if you’ve seen it before in a fantasy epic, they chances are it’ll be referenced (or even better, stolen outright) in this movie. I’m sure if I were to watch it again, and that’s a big IF, I’d probably catch a few more things I missed the first time, this film is so jam-packed with nods to other films. There’s also so many sexually suggestive themes running through this, from masturbation, rape, homosexuality, anal sex, boobs and semen all flying about, it’s hard to reconcile with the awesomeness of the production design. This “chuck everything in” mentality is also one of the reasons the film is actually pretty terrible – the script (if there even was a script) veers from laughable dialogue and risible verbal comedy, to outright slapstick and contemporary humor with confusing regularity, ensuring this is one of the most unevenly paced, poorly acted (seriously, if they kept their own accents instead of the stupid ones they put on for this film, it might have kept the eye-rolling from myself at bay) films of the year. The narrative seems to be something of an afterthought, almost as if it’s a series of vignettes designed to once more parody “serious” fantasy for the sake of a few (cheap) laughs. The opening scene sets the tone – Thadeous has apparently soiled the purity of a Dwarf King, who subsequently orders him to be hanged. The sight of a few dozen little folk hurling abuse at such an overweight gob with poor comic timing indicates just where this film is heading, and if you don’t find this scene funny, you might was well switch off already, because it doesn’t get any better.
Another of this film major issues, at least for me, was the casting of Danny McBride in the lead role of Thadeous. McBride lacks the screen persona to really make this role work for himself. He’s just appallingly unfunny (and I mean that seriously) and completely outclassed in the comedy and acting stakes by his fellow cast members… and I mean all his fellow cast members. Natalie Portman’s stunning derriere has better comedic skill than McBride’s woefully unfunny Thadeous. That said, the rest of the cast carry this film along in spite of McBride’s laconic deadpan delivery being poor: Franco is a standout as the oblivious Fabious (what a great name), the eponymous Knight of virtue and honor, square jaw and superior fighting ability, delivering some of cinema’s most appalling dialogue in a way that makes it seem just.. that… little bit… okay. He’s a scream, and ably supported by Rasmus Hardiker as Thadeous’s aide Courtney – Hardiker home-runs his role as the squire protecting his master. Natalie Portman is equally solid as Isabel, the warrior woman with a vendetta to settle, and whereas she could have become just another set of boobs on the screen (this is a film aimed squarely at the blokes, okay?) she gives her role more credibility than it probably deserved. Watch out for a screamingly funny Toby Jones… you’ll see why, and Justin Theroux has a delicious time as the somewhat androgynous, almost asexual Leezar. He has some of the best material to work with in the entire film, and his delivery is pitch perfect.
With the ridiculous dialogue and often terribly off-putting comedy (references to anal sex litter this film, which becomes a little tiresome by the end) in place, the film does do one thing really, really well. The production design on this movie is simply stunning – the cinematography is superb (I’m led to believe this film was shot primarily in Ireland), the musical score by Steve Jablonksy is entirely bombastic, epic and oh-so-fun, and the set, costume and effects design is all top class. All this talent wasting their time on a film so devoid of a true sense of itself, it’s hard to fathom. I called this film a “kitchen sink” movie earlier, but it could equally be called “a beer and pizza flick”. It’s a film designed to make men laugh, especially in a group after a few beers and some pizza to scoff down. Communal comedy, the kind of humor which is funnier with your friends than when you’re watching it alone, is derived from a mutual uncomfortableness with watching some taboo situations and scenarios in a collective, and Your Highness aims high in this regard. I admit, I often found myself laughing at this film, especially the zany appearance of Zooey Deschanel in a role so far removed from anything I’ve seen her in it’s awesome, and she’s super-hot in this. Portman, especially during “that” scene where she strips off to go bathing, is also sexy as hell in this film, all leathered up like a skinnier Xena, Warrior Princess. It’s a blatant Blokes Movie, and while brave women viewers may find plenty to laugh at, there’s no escaping the fundamentally male sense of irony, humor and crassness involved in this project. Consider yourself warned, oh members of the fairer sex.
There’s plenty to loathe about this film, especially if you’re a more intellectual film fan, looking for highbrow comedy to lighten your mood. You won’t find that here – what you will find is thoroughly enjoyable crap, a crass, horribly scripted but well directed fantasy comedy mess, dredging humor from all points on the compass and virtually assaulting the comedy from every crevice with the subtlety of a prostate exam. This film has no right to be as funny as it is, even with the efforts of McBride continually hampering the humor the entire time, and if for no other reason than to see a man wearing an enormous penis around his neck, you should give this film a shot for a cheap laugh. It’s the kind of film you’d watch with your football mates. Most definitely not your grandmother. A shockingly ordinary film in a literal sense, and yet strangely enjoyable for the humor it does bring.