“Your Highness” stars Danny McBride, James Franco and Natalie Portman, who are all pretty good in their respective roles. Each one of them has their own individual magnetism and an exclusive way of going about this type of material. It is the script that might not live up to the cast’s potential. The selling point of the film is its shaky blend of D&D cosplay and stoner frat boy humor. Imagine if Cheech and Chong were suddenly placed in Middle Earth and you will get somewhat an idea for the look and feel. Throw in a creepy purple Yoda knockoff and you have a recipe for unexceptional.
McBride plays Thadeous, the stout slacker prince cursed to forever live in the shadow of his braver and nobler older brother Fabious (James Franco), whom the spotlight is constantly fixated upon. With him always is the closest thing he has to a friend, his jester-slash-underling Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker, and a man). But Thadeous’s moment to shine appears when he is asked to embark on an epic quest to save his brother’s betrothed wife Belladona (Zooey Deschanel) from the evil hands of Leezar (Justin Theroux), a sorcerer with great magical powers.
Thadeous, Fabious and Courtney endure all sorts of perils, fight all sorts of creatures and partake in all sorts of hallucinogenic herbs on their lengthy adventure. For being a considerably broad comedy, the production values on the locations, costumes and CG creations feel pretty extravagant. On the way, they meet a young female warrior named Isabel (Natalie Portman) who also decides to team up in their plan to overthrow Leezar.
A problem I had very early on was with the profanity. I have no problem with the concept of profanity generally speaking, but I do have a problem when the writers feel the need to pepper every other sentence with a vulgarity, regardless of whether or not there is any rhyme or reason behind it. It is like the only crutch they have to fall back on if there are no big jokes within a specified window of time. I suppose we are expected to laugh at the prospect because it is anachronistic; “He just said [insert obscenity], but he’s in medieval times! That does not fit at all.”
The humor is hit-and-miss. The jokes often come in one form or the other: the above-mentioned random spurts of profanities and crude sexual dialogue. And to be fair, some of it has the tendency to stick and be funny. I would estimate that every fifteen minutes or so I would find something chuckle-worthy, or at the very least something that made me smile. But these moments are too inconsistent to elevate my opinion of the film. Besides, I think the penis joke died long ago when Mike Myers made every single one imaginable in the incomparably awful “The Love Guru.”
I feel slightly less positive about “Your Highness” than I did about David Gordon Green’s previous collaboration with McBride and Franco, “Pineapple Express,” although my problems with both are one and the same. Both actors were a perfect fit in that movie, particularly Franco in his Golden Globe-nominated performance as the most charismatic pothead in recent cinema. But the average plot and jumbled execution were what really kept me from giving it a full recommendation. Notice the similarities?
Comedy is the most subjective genre to review. I cannot ruin what jokes there are; otherwise where is the element of surprise? One person’s second-rate penis joke is the other person’s comedic gold and vise-versa. This is nowhere near as dreadful or appalling as “Year One,” but left me with no strong feelings one way or the other. I did not find myself like it, but there was nothing that angered or offended me. It is what it is, and if it matches your idea of a good time, then so be it. Regrettably, it did not match my own.