April 8, 2011

Your Highness plays like an adolescent’s adventure through every sword and sorcery staple possible, and for some, that’s exactly what they want. Rife with penis jokes, pot smoking, foul language, and other giggle-inducing gags, director David Gordon Green and his ensemble cast are comfortable with maintaining that course throughout the entire film. This is a hard-R adventure comedy that falters in its attempts at grand set pieces but succeeds at making you laugh. Of course, how much you laugh all depends on what you like in your comedies. If you feel like this might be the film for you, hit the jump for my full review.

Prince Thadeous (Danny McBride) has long wished to bask in the glory that his older brother Fabious (James Franco) enjoys, but instead has opted for a life of chasing maidens and other debauchery alongside his trusted squire Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker). However, all that changes when the evil sorcerer Leezar (Justin Theroux) steals Fabious’ beautiful bride-to-be, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel). With Leezar threatening to fulfill a dangerous prophecy, Thadeous reluctantly joins his heroic brother for his first quest. Along the way they join forces with the mysterious and alluring Isabel (Natalie Portman), who has her own goals in mind. Minotaurs, labyrinths, perverted wizards, and other foul creatures await as they embark on a grand journey to save Belladonna, and their kingdom.

Your-Highness-movie-image-Danny-McBride James Franco

What is clear from the outset is that there is a certain brand of childish humor at work, and you will either be on board or not. Green is happy to play along with the script by Ben Best and McBride, and it’s evident that the cast and crew must have had a riot making the film. That being said, the jokes can be lazy at times, with many getting laughter simply because of the use of foul language or a tweak on old English.

At other times, there are gags that downright work even amidst their sheer absurdity. After battling a Minotaur, Thadeous chooses a trophy and manages to string along a gag well beyond 10 minutes without it ever feeling tired. However, it’s during the action scenes that Your Highness truly shows some warts. Green’s last comedic effort, Pineapple Express, showed he can deftly blend comedy and action, or at least pull off one and then the other.

Unfortunately for Your Highness, something never clicked. A carriage chase through the forest is hampered by a mind-boggling amount of camera angles and quick cuts that defies the ability to focus on what is happening. Additionally, the villains our heroes must defeat never feel menacing and instead simply exist as hurdles between jokes. In particular is Leezar, who acts more like a Dungeons & Dragons player on a power trip than any worthy opponent. Perhaps the hope is that the endorphin-induced haze will help smooth out the bumpier aspects of the film, but I couldn’t help but feel this could have been a home run.

Credit is due to the cast and crew for picking a tone and sticking with it for the entirety of the 102 minute run time. For better or worse, Your Highness never sways from the vulgar humor it is selling. The shame is that with the collection of comedic talent on hand, one would imagine synergy to occur. McBride and Franco certainly provide enough to keep you laughing, but it isn’t likely to keep you satisfied.

Score: C+


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