By Dave Campbell | April 8, 2011
Director: David Gordon Green
Writers: Danny McBride, Ben Best
Starring: Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Theroux, Toby Jones, Charles Dance, Noah Huntley, Rasmus Hardiker, Damian Lewis
Your Highness is the tale of two princes in a fantasy medieval land. Fabious (James Franco) is a cunning knight who embarks on epic quests to slay dragons and protect their kingdom, while Thadeous (Danny McBride) has sat in the shadows of his brother’s accomplishments as a degenerate herb smoking disappointment in the eyes of their father King Tallious (Charles Dance).
After returning from his latest quest with the head of a cyclops and his new fiancée Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) in arm, Tallious plans an elaborate wedding celebration for the future heir to his throne. But just as the big event is getting underway, it is cut short when Leezar (Justin Theroux) appears to reclaim his prized virgin prisoner Belladonna and take her back to his wizard tower. Fed up with the shallow life his son Thadeous has led, King Tallious demands that Thadeous accompany Fabious and his circle of aides and knights (Toby Jones, Rasmus Hardiker, Damian Lewis, Noah Huntley) to rescue Belladonna, or be banished from the kingdom.
As they journey across lands to reach Lezzar’s domain, betrayal befalls the group and an unexpected warrior ally Isabel (Natalie Portman) joins the ragtag group to complete her own vengeful agenda. The closer they come to their goals the group is separated leaving Thadeous to find the hero within and become something that he’s never been before.
Your Highness is a total Danny McBride vehicle; he’s the main character Thadeous, and 50% of the writing credit with longtime collaborator Ben Best (The Foot Fist Way). Because of this, most of the lines (of all characters) in the film flow with a very McBride-ian sense of humor and timing. That being said, the script of Your Highness was really just a story outline and the dialogue of the film was greatly improvised by the acting talent. There are occasional scenes where this format works, but the film ultimately pains from the lack of structure that a tightly written and thought out script would have brought.
The overacting and exaggerated accents from McBride and Franco are really the main consistent highlights throughout the film. Most of the memorable support in the story comes from Natalie Portman who plays the character Isabel really straight, and Justin Theroux’s wildly colorful evil wizard Laezar. One of the noticeable character scenes that completely fell flat for me was the violet half turtle, half jellyfish looking White Wizard. This master puppet (à la Yoda) was meant to bring laughs and create background, but rather came off uncomfortably crude and bizarre — even for a guy who loves uncomfortable crude humor.
Medieval dick jokes and topless maidens ga-lore, Your Highness is a total period-fantasy “dude” movie geared for fans of 70’s and 80’s era fantasy, McBride’s HBO series Eastbound & Down, as well as those interested in seeing Natalie Portman’s assets. A comedic stride is never really found in Your Highness, so the overall tone and pacing of the film suffers. If a comedy is extremely funny, one can usually get away with such flaws, but there was really only a smattering of genuine laughs in the 102 minute long film. I’m a fan of the collective talent, but the elements that gelled in David Gordon Green’s Pineapple Express are absent. Green made a name for himself with a list of critically acclaimed dramatic pieces like George Washington and All the Real Girls, but his turn in comedy has led a potentially epic tale into more of an epic fail.
Let the “fuckening” begin!