Title: Your Highness
Directed By: David Gordon Green
Starring: Danny McBride, James Franco, Rasmus Hardiker, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Toby Jones, Justin Theroux, Charles Dance
Outside of a middle school classroom, sex, drugs and dicks aren’t inherently funny. In order for these subjects to actually be funny, they must be placed within a funny circumstance. Not only does Your Highness fail by attempting to tap into our juvenile sides trying to earn a laugh by throwing out one of these subjects at random, but even when it does contextualize their inclusion, it’s not particularly funny either.
Thadeous (Danny McBride) suffers from an extreme case of one-sided sibling rivalry. His older brother, Fabious (James Franco), is a mighty warrior, heir to the throne and the town golden boy. While Fabious is off on his epic quests, Thadeous lounges around getting high with his servant Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker). One day, Fabious returns from one of his missions not only victorious in battle, but with Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) on his arm, the woman he’d like to make his wife. Too bad on the day of the wedding the wicked Leezar (Justin Theroux) swoops in and kidnaps Belladonna for a dragon-spawning evil ritual.
As Fabious regroups his men to embark on a new quest, to rescue his love, his father, King Tallious (Charles Dance), decides Fabious should recruit one more, Thadeous. So the brothers, Courtney and Fabious’ Elite Knights ride off to Leezar’s tower. Along the way they battle beasts, other warriors and even themselves. They also come across Isabel (Natalie Portman), a warrior herself with a similar score to settle.
Sounds fairly straight forward, right? On the surface, yes, but the way in which writers McBride and Ben Best go about telling the story of this adventure is like nothing you’ve ever seen. Your Highness is as absurd as they get. While the concept of a comedic knights-in-shining-armor piece could be quite amusing, perhaps along the lines of something like Robin Hood: Men in Tights, the way McBride and Best go about getting their laughs is a little hard to stomach.
Overall, the story itself isn’t half bad. The brotherly bickering works as does Fabious’ desperation to save the day. There’s a powerful ticking clock creating a great sense of urgency, ultimately giving Your Highness a proper pace. The problems here solely rest in the film’s humor. If you’re not into drug and dick jokes, you won’t appreciate any of the comedy in Your Highness and, if you don’t find the film funny, you’ll flat out hate it. Basically, if you think a guy walking around wearing the penis of a Minotaur around his neck is amusing, you’ll appreciate the humor here.
However, for the rest of us, Your Highness is an inane and unsuccessful attempt to earn some cheap laughs. There are no laugh-out-loud moments in the entire piece, however, the few gags that did earn a mere giggle were all jokes embedded in character arc, the best of which come from Courtney. In fact, that character as a whole is wildly more successful than the film’s leads. While he begins as a mere caricature playing Thadeous’ dedicated and feeble squire, throughout the journey he slowly reveals there’s a bit more to him, specifically willpower. That transition makes him interesting and therefore worthy of your attention.
Whereas Your Highness is supposed to be McBride’s film, just about everything in it works against him. First off, he’s rocking the same shtick throughout the entire film and eventually, it grows old. Secondly, Thadeous isn’t properly presented as the main character. Fabious, Courtney and eventually Isabel constantly take the attention away from him. While it’s one thing to have strong supporting characters, it’s another to have multiple protagonists. Perhaps Best and McBride had Thadeous in mind as #1, but what they ended up producing doesn’t convey that intention in the least save for the film’s finale. Then again, even if we were given the opportunity to hang onto Thadeous a bit more and maybe get inside his head, he’s just too unlikable to earn any compassion. He’s gross, mean, dumb and doesn’t deserve his family’s sympathy.
Performance wise, everyone gives it their all, there’s just so little to work with. Deschanel certainly gets the short end of the stick having to play a powerless character that really could have been portrayed by a blow-up doll. Portman gets a little more, but she doesn’t appear until half way through the film. Franco romps through this one with his typical gleaming grin, seemingly loving what he’s gotten himself into and it works, for Fabious is largely a happy-go-lucky character. While McBride’s effort isn’t all that bad, he does seem to lack his usual pep almost as if McBride himself was uninspired with the role.
But again, performances, story and just about everything else aside, what’ll ultimately tip the scale is the comedy. There’s nakedness and campy gore galore and if you don’t mind all of that plus ridiculously crude dialogue, you might actually appreciate Your Highness. However, I’m willing to bet the majority will fall in the other camp and find the film disgusting, unfunny and distasteful.
By Perri Nemiroff