Screen Rant’s Vic Holtreman reviews Your Highness
Midgets. The movie opened with midgets. An entire village of midgets.
Right there, I thought “aw man – this is going to be a rough hour and a half.” But then the scene actually ended with an unexpectedly funny punch line and cut immediately to some interesting credits that gave me at least a little bit of hope.
Your Highness is a take off on medieval/fantasy films from the 1980s - with a modern, hard R-rated comedy twist. The movie stars and was co-written by Danny McBride, who plays Thadeous, the younger, slacker son of the king. The first-born (Fabious) is played by James Franco. Thadeous is of course jealous of his heroic and someday-to-be-king older brother, while Fabious loves his younger brother dearly and is blind to his resentment.
Fabious has met a fair young maiden on his most recent quest – her name is (ready?) Belladonna (played by the ever-ethereal Zooey Deschanel) and has become enamored of her enough to propose marriage. Ah, but the evil sorcerer named Leezar (Justin Theroux) who held her locked in a tower has his own plans for her and takes her back – setting the foundation for the driving story arc: A quest to re-rescue the fair maiden.
The king insists that Thadeous (and therefore his faithful page) assist Fabious in this quest in order to finally make a man out of him. Along the way they meet and team up with warrior-babe Isabel (Natalie Portman) who has her own quest to complete.
Your Highness was directed by David Gordon Green, who also directed Pineapple Express, which also starred James Franco. One surprise with the film is the scope of the movie and the visual effects – it comes across as much more “big budget” than I expected. The main joke of course, comes from juxtaposing a medieval setting with stoner humor, f-bombs and “dick jokes.” Many of the characters (including the one played by Natalie Portman) play their roles dead serious, while McBride seems transported there from present day, and his page (Rasmus Hardiker) mugs for the camera. Franco straddles the line between serious approach and comedy by playing it so open, good-hearted and naive that it becomes its own brand of funny.
As to the profanity, yeah there’s a lot of it. But as a friend of mine (@misterpatches) pointed out on Twitter, “‘F***’ is not a joke. A well-timed one is a different matter.” Now I don’t know if he said it in reference to this film, but they’re wise words regardless. There are some films (*cough* Paul *cough*) where the use of it seems superfluous and doesn’t add anything to the film, but here… dare I use the word “subtle” in a movie where a penis figures (too) prominently in the third act? It works.
Danny McBride doesn’t beat the audience over the head with his rudeness – it just seems to be a part of him. You can’t help but like James Franco in this role, and his seeming enjoyment comes across on the screen. Natalie Portman is fun to watch (for reasons other than the swim scene) – she plays it pretty straight-up badass warrior chick and it’s neat seeing her do that. Then there’s Justin Theroux as the wizard – well played – and one scene where he tries to convince Zooey that her prince is not all he’s cracked up to be tickled my funny bone.
Is this a sharp, witty film? Not even remotely. But are there plenty of scenes that will make you squirm/laugh if you’re OK with R-rated comedies? Yup. Some of it was more than a bit much (for me anyway) – like the previously mentioned penis that just would not go away. There’s a scene with a “wise wizard” early on that will either offend the heck out of you or you’ll find funny and will be a signal you’re in the right theater.
Still on the fence? Here’s a trailer for Your Highness (NSFW):