Notable Cast: James Franco, Danny McBride, Natalie Portman, Justin Theroux, Zooey Deschanel, Rasmus Hardiker
Review: A medieval stoner comedy written by the Eastbound & Down guys? There was some serious potential here. But as you can tell by my “was”, Your Highness never capitalizes on all its high-profile pieces. The cast was filled with fantastic actors, comedic or not, and director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) was no stranger to the certain type of comedy Your Highness was aiming for. The movie suffers from a giant case of overkill, mixed with bouts of poor execution. It gets stuck at a level of “stupid” humor, and never tried to expand upon it, providing no variety. But oh yea, Natalie Portman is smoking hot, so you should probably go see Your Highness for that reason alone. Then again, minus that bathing scene plastered all over every advertisement, she just falls in with the rest of the cast into a state of bland mediocrity.
Your Highness is an old-time buddy comedy, pairing brothers Thadeous (McBride) and Fabious (Franco) for some epic questing. Fabious is the golden child of the family, becoming a great knight renowned for his accomplishments. Thadeous on the other hand is more of a black sheep, wishing to partake in more…subdued activities. On the wedding day of Fabious and his bride to be Belladonna (Deschanel), the evil wizard Leezar (Theroux) kidnaps Belladonna so he can complete an ancient prophecy involving the young virgin. It is up to Fabious, Thadeous, Fabious’ band of warriors, and Thadeous’ servant Courtney (Hardiker) to stop the evil Leezar and free Belladonna. Along the way, the group encounters many hardships that include treachery, mystical beings, magic, and battling. They also meet old friends along the way, but also meet new ones. When encountering the fiery warrior Isabel (Portman), they are able to convince her to accompany them on their quest, helping each other out along the way. Racing against time, our heroes must defeat the dastardly Leezar, and free Fabious’ one true love. That is, if Thadeous can prevent himself from mucking everything up.
I’m sure some people will find Your Highness utterly hilarious, and I’m not saying the script is without some well done comedic moments, but I never got a real belly laugh until the very end. In fact, there was a shocking lack of laughs for a majority of the film, until Thadeous dons his first trophy (if you’ve seen, you’ll understand). From that magic moment and on, Your Highness gains a true grasp on inserting the stoner subculture into the prim and proper time period. But alas, it only makes the rest of the movie that much more disappointing, because it proves the movie could have been a solid comedy throughout, given the first hour and ten minutes were as well written as the last 20. The writing is tailored for a very specific crowd, much in the way Observe and Report was. In fact, I feel Jody Hill’s (Observe and Report) influence in this script a ton, being that Best, McBride, and Hill are frequent collaborators. Many similarities can be drawn between both movies, from their awkwardly off beat comedy stylings to their lack of positive mainstream cinema feedback. But where Your Highness gets left in the dust is in execution. Danny McBride’s character had an extremely foul mouth for a medieval prince, but they run that joke into the ground about 5 minutes through the film. I’ll admit, I chuckled at first, because as the audience we’re so brainwashed that people in knighthood didn’t talk like that. But after a while, McBride’s character becomes beyond overkill, showing nothing but immaturity and a lack of creativity in the writing. I also have to say Justin Theroux’s portrayal of the wizard Leezar was not funny at all. His character tried to be just as vulgar as Thadeous, but Theroux’s delivery was more creepy than funny. We’re supposed to laugh at his rather blatant descriptions of sex, but instead you just look around at all the other people not quite sure how to react. The lines just didn’t fit him. Theroux is fantastic as the straight man, but was horribly miscast for what the character Leezar should have been.
But looking at the cast as a whole, Your Highness was an unjust misuse of talents that are skyrocketing as we speak. Franco has proved himself in pretty much every genre; appearing as a stoned out drug dealer (Pineapple Express), a one-armed adventurer (127 Hours), Harvey Milk’s love interest (Milk), and even an artist/serial killer on “General Hospital.” Natalie Portman stunned audiences as the Nina Sayers aka the Swan Queen in Black Swan, shaved her head in V for Vendetta, and at the age of 13 played an assassin’s helper in Leon: The Professional. Danny McBride has kept us in stitches famously as the egomaniacal baseball player Kenny Powers, but also pops up in such comedies as Pineapple Express, Tropic Thunder, Observe and Report, Due Date, and Hot Rod. So how, can you tell me, were they out shined by McBride’s servant boy Courtney? Played by Rasmus Hardiker, star of, well, nothing really, Courtney was a huge reason why Thadeous was even remotely funny at times. McBride drew tiresome, and Franco again seemed miscast, speaking his lines almost if he knew how bad they were. Franco always followed his dialogue with this coy smile, like even he was saying to himself “are you kidding me?” Without Courtney, Your Highness would have been a depressingly boring endeavor, but luckily Rasmus was able to steal a ton of scenes, gaining some publicity for his name.. I should state though Natalie took the role of the warrior woman well when she could, even though again she was grossly underused in the film.
So there you have it, the first real bust of the year. There’s nothing epic or memorable about this quest. Yes, there were worse movies so far, but the potential Your Highness had trumps that of most comedies being released this year. It was a script undoubtably from the mind of Danny McBride, but it lacked the wit and ridiculousness of his other works that made them special. Kenny Powers is one of the funniest characters on TV, but Thadeous is just a bumbling fool with the brain of a 12-year-old: much like this film. Your Highness was just one foul joke after the next, only landing one out of every ten lines (if even). I love a good stoner comedy just as much as the next guy, but Your Highness will leave you with the feeling you were duped into buying nothing but a bag of oregano. Bummer man.
Final Rating: 5.5 perverted wizards out of 10