Though the title suggests a stoner comedy along the lines of The Pineapple Express, Your Highness is more of a goof on the fantasy and Sword and Sorcery movies that took over cinema in the early 1980′s, films that ranged from the studio financed Conan the Barbarian and Clash of the Titans, to the Italian and American rip-offs like Yor, the Hunter from the Future and Barbarian Queen. If you’ve got a soft spot for The Beastmaster, but also recognie that it’s kinda goofy, this movie is for you. Otherwise…
- Directed by: David Gordon Green
- Writers: Danny McBride, Ben Best
- Starring: Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Theroux
Thadeous (McBride) is the second son of King Tallious (Charles Dance) and therefore second in line to Fabious (James Franco) who is always successful on his magical journeys. Recently he’s rescued Belladonna (Deschanel) from capitivity, and plans to marry her. Then the evil Wizard Leezar shows up and steals her for “The Fuckening” where he will impregnate her with a dragon. Thadeous and Fabious are forced team up to find her, and eventually get the help of Isabel (Portman), who has a quest of her own.
- Comedy from Unexpected Performers: Sure Danny McBride is going to be funny, but performers like Damien Lewis and Toby Jones are commited to the material, and it pays off in jokes and directions unexpected that kill. Oscar-winner Natalie Portman plays it straight, but then when she has to deliver filthy dialog she does it without a wink and it kills.
- Justin Theroux: Playing the villain, his hamstrung plot for “The Fuckening” falls apart the further it goes along because of his incompetence.
- All Out: Some of the jokes, and settings are just plain out there. From a fortune telling mythical creatures who’s also a pedophile, to a randy Minotaur, the film goes to some pretty strange places for laughs, but that it’s doing so in this setting
- Brotherly Love: McBride and Franco don’t look like each other, but their relationship is very real, and that’s helped by Franco’s commitment to character. The film works because it never descends into parody (the closest it comes is a very direct mockery of Clash of the Titans Bubo) and the two play off each other well.
- Cadence: Comedy works when it hits you with a surprise, and with David Gordon Green’s comedies, sometimes those surprises come from weirdly chosen inflections of a line, or weird digressions. Though McBride’s comic cadence is well defined – and he does it well here – Green constantly finds notes to hit that come out of nowhere.
- The Prologue: McBride’s character gets in trouble with midgets. Comedies that use midgets for punchlines are often bad, and though there’s one good joke in the mix, it starts the film off on the wrong foot, which is made worse by…
- The Opening Credits: The pot angle of this film was a mislead, and the opening credits (which are vandalized while they play) sets this up to be more along the lines of a spoof movie. If the movie itself never tips its hand, the credits do, and so you’re left with the first couple minutes of the film kinda sucking.
- The Specificity: Having grown up watching pretty much all of the films this film is riffing on, I get it, and I laughed hardily. For many who have context of a film like Krull or Excalibur, the genre being toyed with isn’t really so familiar as to play as well with people who don’t know it.
This is the sort of film that usually creates a binary response. If you like McBride’s comic stylings, and appreciate the references, then you’ll probably have fun with it. But those who aren’t McBride fans, or didn’t play a little Dungeons and Dragons, and never saw the fun of Krull are probably going to be left at a loss. Ultimately, the film is a goof, and perhaps part of what makes it appealing or unappealing is that they actually made it.
Your Highness hits theaters April 8.