Universal // 2011 // 106 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // August 9th, 2011
Prepare thyself adventurer, for a most dangerous quest. For we seek to find a morsel of mirth in this most deadly of foes: the unfunny comedy.
Outside of anime, you don't find too many fantasy comedy hybrids. This is usually due to budget concerns dealing with the fantasy portion of the film. But Your Highness jumps into the fray, swinging its phallic sword, while hopped up on "pipe weed" and constantly farting in the hopes of making you laugh.
That image I just crafted was funnier than anything in the film.
Prince Thadeous (Danny McBride, Land of the Lost) is the second born son of King Tallious (Charles Dance, Last Action Hero). He's also a complete flake, who's highest ambition is to smoke out after having an orgy with several dwarven maidens. He suffers, when compared to his brother Fabious (James Franco, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), a hero of the first order who leads a band of noble knights to save the realm from evil, time and time again.
So when the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux, Mulholland Dr.) appears and abducts Fabious' one true love, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel, (500) Days of Summer), the whole kingdom expects Fabious to undertake a quest to save her. But King Tallious is sick of Thadeous constant state of sloth and forces him to tag along. So our heros must brave numerous perils, meet a gaggle of naked women, face down horrible creatures, and join forces with the deadly warrior Isabel (Natalie Portman, Black Swan) to face down Leezar in his dark fortress.
The whole while, Thadeous bitches and moans about how much the quest sucks. And the audience starts to agree with him.
Alas! Fortune did not smile upon this sad production. Your Highness has all the makings of an entertaining and amusing romp in a fantasy world. But at every turn it flails around like a virgin sacrifice for a fire breathing dragon. Shrieking at the top of its lungs and fainting at the first sight of...wait a second, my metaphor got off track.
The point is, the movie isn't very funny, and that's sad considering the talent on display here. Check out the cast. These folks have tickled our funny bones before, and director David Gordon Green had success with Pineapple Express. In the end, that's what's most disappointing -- it should be funny.
I'll admit, I'm not a fan of lowbrow humor, but can appreciate there is an audience for it. A good comedy should be able to appeal to a wide set of viewers, with a mix of jokes to keep everyone entertained. Want proof? Look at the comedy fantasy classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail, whose clever jokes based on Arthurian folklore mixes absurd visuals, plenty of sex, and poop jokes to create something hilarious.
Your Highness is a one trick pony. It's only tactic is to make a constant stream of dick jokes with some profanity and drug references thrown in for spice. If I was in sixth grade, this would be the height of comedy. Which is fine, if that's all the movie wanted to be.
The problem is Your Highness is set in a sword and sorcery world, where one would assume they would actually have some fun with fantasy story conventions. Sadly, there is a little of this, with most attempts so obvious a blind hobbit could have seen it coming a mile away.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail has its classic black knight scene. The audience knows King Arthur faces the Black Knight and defeats him; it's in practically every version of the story. But the Python's take is absurd, with ridiculous dialogue and copious amounts of blood. What does Your Highness offer us? One of the heros facing a minotaur in a maze. When the minotaur catches the hero, it rapes the guy. Yeah...way to go.
Your Highness never goes for clever, it goes for crass and stupid. One of the best choices is having the cast speak with elevated fantasy dialogue and throwing in an occasional anachronistic phrase (usually profanity). Unfortunately, it plays that card to death, rather than picking a few key moments and making them count.
The performances may all over the place, but they never detract from the film. You can tell everyone is having a good time, with some smiles peeking through performances. McBride actually does a good job of playing the whiney annoying brat of a brother, but does it so well you're hoping he gets devoured by a creature instead of completing his painfully obvious hero's arc. Franco is having a blast running around in his silly wig, spouting heroic dialogue. Portman plays her part completely straight, as a woman obsessed by revenge, who happens to be a devilishly dangerous fighter. Makes me wish the story centered around her character.
Universal provides a solid DVD. We get both the theatrical and unrated versions, with the new cut adding a whopping three minutes of additional footage. The 2.40:1 anamorphic, standard def transfer is clear, and the Dolby 5.1 surround track well-balanced. For extras we get a commentary from the director, McBride, Franco, and Theroux; a collection of deleted and alternate scenes; a gag reel; and a standard issue EPK documentary.
The fantasy elements are actually pretty impressive. The fight scenes are fast paced and exciting. The juxtaposition of Steve Jablonsky's overblown score with some of the sillier scenes was amusing. Portman's rants about revenge, and the homage to Conan the Barbarian made me smile. Plus, the creature designs, colorful costumes, impressive sets, and special effects make Your Highness more entertaining than it should be. If only the movie had toned down the "humor" -- A pedophile muppet? Really guys?! -- it might have been more fun.
The creative team behind Your Highness just couldn't muster the time or energy to offer up real cleverness. Too much pipe weed, maybe.
Guilty of missing a golden opportunity. Boil them in oil!
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Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Version
* Alternate/Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel