Directed by: David Gordon Green
Cast: Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel
Running Time: 1 hr 41 min
Release Date: April 8, 2011
PLOT: In keeping with a centuries old prophecy, the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux) must kidnap the virginal Belladonna (Deschanel) from the dashing Prince Fabious (Franco). Fabious sets out on a quest to rescue his bride-to-be and forces his insecure, laze-about brother Thadeous (McBride) to come along. En route, the two princes meet Isabel (Portman), a femme fatale vigilante out to avenge the death of her kin. The heroes join forces to kill the wizard, save the virgin, and keep the prophecy from coming to fruition.
WHO’S IT FOR?: Stoners and anyone who likes dumb humor. I’m not a stoner, but I do love me some dumb humor. Serve me up another helpin’ o’ idiotic laughs; I just can’t get enough.
EXPECTATIONS: The previews didn’t look that great, but the cast is so phenomenal I was willing to take the risk. I would have happily paid to see this movie just to watch Natalie Portman and James Franco work their wacky magic.
Danny McBride as Thadeous: McBride has cracked me up ever since The Foot Fist Way, and he’s quickly becoming my Will Ferrell Nicorette. McBride rocks the mulleted trailer trash with such cheerful gusto, that it’s hard not to have a good time when he’s around. And when he’s in a Medieval-style movie with wizards and princes and horse drawn carriages…well, there’s just no resisting it. Here McBride plays a pouty, jealous younger brother (to Franco, who’s actually younger), and he pulls off “brat” with whole-hearted zest. At one point, Thadeous tells Isabel “you’re a bully and you’re mean,” and he delivers the line like he sort of worries she’s going to haul off and drop him. McBride still manages to look much smaller than her.
James Franco as Fabious: For the most part, Fabious is an unflagging optimist, who only sees the good in his brother even when he’s grasping at minimal straws. Franco plays him with smiling good nature and the dynamic between he and McBride is always fun. He’s undoubtedly a hero, but he’s also trusting and naive, thus allowing Thadeous to manipulate and push him. Since Franco already has that “aw shucks,” amiable look about him, he’s ideally suited.
Natalie Portman as Isabel: Remember when Natalie Portman rapped on SNL and it was totally freakin’ awesome? Why was it, one may ask, so utterly delicious to listen to her rant about drinking and screwing all night long? Because she has the face and demeanor of an angel. The character Isabel is intense and almost joyfully homicidal, which means it’s that same brand of awesome having sweet-faced Portman playing her. Isabel says things like “it makes you want to rip their skin off and wear it as a cape and dance around their convulsing corpses,” and “I’m going to burn them alive in a symphony of pain.” It’s really fun and it doesn’t get old, especially when McBride continues to react like he’s attracted, but rightfully terrified.
Zooey Deschanel as Belladonna: Belladonna has spent her entire life – as fairytale princesses are wont to do – locked up in a tower, so she’s not socialized. Deschanel looks gorgeous with her long dark hair, bluebell eyes, and dramatic gowns, but then she spits out a mouthful of dinner with a “blech!” It’s that dichotomy of beauty versus social awkwardness that distinguishes her character from all the other princesses locked in towers. Deschanel isn’t in the movie as much as the rest of the cast, but she delves happily into the maiden in distress role.
TALKING: The anachronistic cursing is only funny for the first few times and then it’s too predictable to be effective. There is a fun combination of high-brow and low-brow dialogue all scrambled together, however, and that can’t be predicted. Aside from the swearing, you’re never really sure what’s going to come out of anyone’s mouth. When Portman goes into an intense soliloquy about avenging her family, at the very end she sneaks in a “it burned in my beaver.” When it catches you off guard, it’s big fun.
SIGHTS: The special effects in Your Highness are surprisingly good. I say “surprisingly” because it’s a flagrantly goofy movie and you don’t expect anyone to shell out the extra dinero for CGI. The evil sorcerers shoot lightning from their hands and five-headed snake monsters pop out of the ground and it’s all very, very cool. Another thing they spent their money on was location – the locations are breathtaking. So picture Lord of the Rings, except starring immature potty-mouths and you get the idea.
SOUNDS: The score is your standard dramatic fantasy fare. It’s well produced and takes itself very seriously, which makes it almost tongue-in-cheek. It’s the straight man out in front while the jesters in the back make funny faces and fart noises.
BEST SCENE: When the two princes finally save the day they take a guy moment and do fist pumps.
ENDING: It’s the perfect ending.
QUESTIONS: The whole thing is so joyfully ridiculous that asking questions would only make you dumber. It’s stupid fun. Don’t worry about the shades of stupid; just accept it and move on.
REWATCHABILITY: I would watch this movie again. I might even pay to see it a second time and bring along a few of my friends, who also appreciate the art of dumb humor. I would definitely rent it.
Clearly, historians and literature afficionados should steer clear of Your Highness – it’s really not your scene. But for those of us who have the ability to happily hang our brain on the coat rack as we trot out the door, Your Highness is a great diversion. The dialogue is too puerile to point to individual lines, but the exchanges between the characters are golden. McBride says something moronic, hedged in old-timey speak, Franco answers with exaggerated heroism, and Portman replies with dark, angry fury. And yes, somewhere one of them will drop the f-bomb, and by now you’ve heard it a dozen times and you’re starting to roll your eyes at it. No matter! If you’re a true believer in the variety of humor that forcefully lowers all the IQs in the room, you will soldier on regardless.
The swearing is used too much, a few of the lines are too gross to be funny, and the movie does drag in parts. So there’s the bad (unrelenting idiocy notwithstanding, but you had to know that from the trailers). It’s also lighthearted wackiness, and three typically serious actors (Franco, Portman, Deschanel) goofing it up with aplomb. At one point, Thadeous tells Isabel “you’re a bully and you’re mean,” and he delivers the line like he sort of worries she’s going to haul off and drop him. Even though he’s twice her size, McBride still manages to look smaller as he cowers in the face of her tiny ferociousness. The good definitely outweighs the bad.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10