#64 / 365 – ‘Your Highness’ – 102 mins
Cinema Challenge #29 / 115
Throughout history, tales of chivalry have burnished the legends of brave, handsome knights who rescue fair damsels, slay dragons and conquer evil. But behind many a hero is a good-for-nothing younger brother trying just to stay out of the way of those dragons, evil and trouble in general. Danny McBride and James Franco team up for an epic comedy adventure set in a fantastical world-Your Highness. As two princes on a daring mission to save their land, they must rescue the heir apparent’s fiancée before their kingdom is destroyed. Thadeous (McBride) has spent his life watching his perfect older brother Fabious (Franco) embark upon valiant journeys and win the hearts of his people. Tired of being passed over for adventure, adoration and the throne, he’s settled for a life of wizard’s weed, hard booze and easy maidens. But when Fabious’ bride-to-be, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), gets kidnapped by the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux), the king gives his deadbeat son an ultimatum: Man up and help rescue her or get cut off. Half-assedly embarking upon his first quest, Thadeous joins Fabious to trek across the perilous outlands and free the princess. Joined by Isabel (Natalie Portman)-an elusive warrior with a dangerous agenda of her own-the brothers must vanquish horrific creatures and traitorous knights before they can reach Belladonna. If Thadeous can find his inner hero, he can help his brother prevent the destruction of his land. Stay a slacker, and not only does he die a coward, he gets front row seats to the dawn of an all-new Dark Ages.
From the moment the genuinely brilliant trailer landed for ‘Your Highness’ it won me over, whats not to like – a fantastic looking laugh a minute crude humour of a film all set within a medieval fantasy world. Fantastic traditional storybook fantasy narration opens the picture, quickly poking fun of the characters as they introduce their bearing on this story, sadly from there on it all goes badly wrong and for a moment thought someone had sold me the ticket to the wrong film.
The movie falls down in the one area that should have held it all together, its comedy – where it just isn’t that funny. There really is a limit to how many times you can use crude modern swear words in a film before it no longer raises a laugh and here it over-exceeds that limit very early on. That said crudeness in films can be highly effective and to the point where laughter is infectious throughout, take these classics over the years ‘American Pie’ ‘Borat’ and ‘There’s Something About Mary’ . That’s not to say some of the comedy never works in ‘Your Highness’, there some genuine amusing moments – the Minotaur ‘trophy’ necklace scene.
If you look around the web it is well documented that director David Gordon Green (‘Pineapple Express’) exclaims the script is fully improvised and the cast of James Franco, Danny McBride, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Theroux and Toby Jones didn’t do rehearsals and just ‘jammed’ on the day of shooting, this is another major flaw in the film the script at times is desperately calling for some kind of fundamental structure.
After coming out of cinema where ‘Your Highness’ was watched with friends, I really felt like the odd one out as everyone else loved it. I honestly tried to like this comedy, but at times I was nearly forcing myself to laugh as those laughs weren’t flowing naturally. Your Highness features a highly talented cast (Danny McBride, aside) that are ultimately wasted in a pointless rancid fairytale that I very much convey to ‘Year One’, sorry folks this is the first genuine ‘turkey’ of the year for me.