Movie Review: Your Highness (2011)

Natalie Portman, Danny McBride, James Franco and Zooey Deschanel in Your Highness
Photo: Universal Pictures

Not nearly as terrible as I thought it would be, Your Highness is still a relative dud when it comes to comedy. I laughed at some moments and even laughed a little louder at an absurd drawing about midway through, but for the most part this is just a series of sight gags that are either unfunny to begin with or try so hard that by the end I was simply tired of it all.

The medieval set comedy makes an attempt to be both a stoner comedy and farcical fantasy romp, which is to say Pineapple Express helmer David Gordon Green has now made the same movie twice in a row, the only real difference being the year in which the films are set. I wasn’t a big fan of Pineapple Express, but I found Your Highness co-star and co-writer Danny McBride to be that film’s one saving grace. The same does not apply here.

McBride’s comedy is limited to endless dick jokes and routine weed references as he takes on the lead role here as Thadeous, the deadbeat son of a powerful king who’s played second fiddle to his conquering older brother Fabious (James Franco) for many years. Thadeous’s life grows even more dim as Fabious returns home from yet another successful quest, only this time he’s brought back with him his bride-to-be, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), whom he rescued from the clutches of the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux).

But Leezar won’t let that stand and kidnaps Belladonna on her wedding day, threatening to take her virginity in a ritual he’s dubbed “The F**kening,” which has something to do with dragons and the end of the world from what I could tell. As a result, the king charges Thadeous with his first quest, and on it he’ll help his brother rescue his wife or be shunned should he not accept.

More suited for slovenly lazying about, Thadeous joins Fabious as the two set off on a journey where they will deal with traitors, a perverted forest puppet, a five-headed beasty and a sexually aroused minotaur. They’re also joined by the lovely Natalie Portman playing Isabel, a lone warrior setting out to destroy Leezar for her own reasons, or as she puts it, to stop those that would force others to “f**k to make dragons.”

Yeah, the F-bomb is dropped in Your Highness on the regular. Not that this offends me, but it’s curious to notice its use here compared to films that turn swearing into an art form such as In the Loop, rather than use them purely because the R-rating affords them the opportunity. The film’s other fall-back is an endless barrage of penis jokes. I remember stepping into the elevator on my way out of the theater and overhearing a couple talking to each other after the screening. One of them addressed the male genitalia aspect of the film saying, “Did they really have to show that? As if they hadn’t beat the joke into the ground during the entire movie.” It made me happy to hear I wasn’t the only one thinking it.

In the lead roles Franco and McBride are just as you would expect. Franco is all grins and McBride is trailer trash without the wife beater. Portman’s character comes along and helps things, but also proves each one of the characters are so one dimensional there is little to attach yourself to. McBride’s Thadeous is a dimwit, Franco’s Fabious is chivalrous and Portman’s Isabel is blood-thirsty. Not much can be made of the trio other than to view them as pieces to be moved around the board.

The most entertaining of the lot is Theroux as Leezar and not for his performance, but more for his dialogue. The intelligence level of most of the characters is questionable as spats break out and arguments are had with wit on par with “I’m rubber you’re glue.” Leezar, however, gets the best of the bunch especially in his speech to Belladonna describing how the world “really” works. Toby Jones (W., Infamous) also provides a mild bit of entertainment and gets the one dick joke I actually laughed at.

Co-written by McBride and Ben Best who last teamed on The Foot Fist Way, a film I found to be truly awful, I can’t say I see any signs of growth in the duo. I’m also bewildered as to why David Gordon Green would decide to direct this picture as it has very little life or even a spark of ingenuity.

However, I can’t say I entirely hated Your Highness or that I was ever bored. I would also never say it was actually good. If you’ve seen the red band trailer you pretty much know all you need to know about what you’re going to get. There are a few one liners that will make you laugh, but for the most part I believe you’ll come out less than impressed.