I can safely say there was no movie I was looking forward to this month more than Your Highness. David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) directs James Franco, Natalie Portman, Justin Theroux and Danny McBride in a foul-mouthed, medieval times period piece? And McBride co-wrote the script? Sign me up for that shit!
So it’s with great sadness that I tell you, while it isn’t altogether terrible, Your Highness will probably qualify as one of the most disappointing letdowns of 2011.
Green and company totally miss the mark with this one. I think they were shooting for some of that Monty Python-esque period piece comedy, where you make an authentic looking film about King Arthur or the Roman Empire, and then sprinkle it with dirty words and slapstick.
While the Pythons were able to do this sort of thing with relative ease, because they were so damned intelligent, Green and his cast just come off as sporadically funny, dirty minded Hollywood actors at a halfway decent-looking costume party. The Pythons could get away with a dick joke because it seemed a little beneath them. Danny McBride seems to only tell dick jokes, and his dick jokes are getting tiresome.
Things start promisingly, with Thadeous (McBride), youngest son of King Tallious (Charles Dance), about to hang for screwing around with a dwarf’s wife. After a sort-of-funny sight gag, Thadeous retreats to his castle, just in time for the triumphant return of his older brother Fabious (Franco), who has found a new bride-to-be in Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel).
On their wedding day, the evil wizard Leezar (a very funny Justin Theroux) crashes the party and kidnaps Belladonna for an evil ceremony called The Fuckening (a kind-of-funny wink to Highlander). Fabious goes on a quest to save Belladonna and, of course, Thadeous is brought along for the ride.
One of the problems with the film is that Green has made a movie a little too much like the lousy Excalibur and Krull. Those films are dull as all hell, and so is Your Highness. The actors and actresses are never really allowed to be full-bore funny. It’s like they’re stuck in neutral.
McBride, so funny in Pineapple Express, has written himself a one-note character with very little finesse. His big joke is wearing the severed cock of the Minotaur around his neck as a trophy. Perhaps there are directors and actors somewhere who could make that sort of thing hilarious. In Your Highness, it’s just lame and gross.
Portman shows up deep into the film as a bow-and-arrow shooting beauty that Thadeous has a crush on. She’s good, although she’s given little to do. Her big moment involves her stripping for a daytime swim which is, perhaps, the highlight of the movie. Franco is just fine as the movie’s Prince Charming, getting more laughs than McBride even though he’s playing the straight man.
Theroux, wearing a goofy wig and bad teeth, has the film’s best moments. Whether he is explaining why women should want him, or failing to deliver the goods during the Fuckening, he seems to be the only performer in the film who knows how to be consistently funny.
Green is a great director. Besides Pineapple Express, he’s put forth good dramas like All the Real Girls (with Deschanel and McBride), George Washington and Snow Angels. This is his first true stinker. While one might figure that he would take this experience as a reason to return to his more dramatic roots, his next film seems to be The Sitter, a comedy costarring Sam Rockwell and Jonah Hill.
So, yeah, you can go ahead and avoid this film, and I encourage you to do this with great conviction. It’s depressing to see such a pool of talent floundering under the tutelage of a normally great but temporarily misguided auteur. Your Highness makes me very, very sad.