Your Highness Directed by: David Gordon Green Cast: Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Theroux
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.
He Said (Nick Allen) vs. She Said (Morrow McLaughlin)
Morrow (She) gave this month's medieval comedy Your Highness an 8/10. I (He) would have given the film half that. And once I started talking trash to Morrow via email about her crazy score, it was time to settle our differences the only way TSR writers know possible ... another episode of "He Said - She Said."
As always, plot spoilers are fair game, so it is recommended you see the film before reading on.
Morrow has instructed me to be inflammatory to open this one up. Here goes: "Boobs." Oh right, and ... "Motherf**ker!"
When I talk about Your Highness with people, I can only talk about it with the same mindset as I would something like Sucker Punch, which is disappointing, since Sucker Punch isn't very good. A movie by the director of Pineapple Express with James Franco, Natalie Portman, and the still underrated Danny McBride should be hilarious. I should be bursting out of the theater trying to maintain my insides after having my guts tormented by incredible laughter, from subject matter that is perverse, oddball, but most importantly, unexpected. Instead, I can only really talk about that scene where a bunch of naked ladies covered in mud rounded up Franco and McBride and then did nothing else. That was ... interesting. But like the many poor excuses for comedy in this movie, turned out to be fairly lame ... motherf**ker! (Is it still funny after the movie if we throw in cuss words randomly at the end of sentences?)
Really, I've talked to a few people about Your Highness, and there's only person I have even slightly talked positively about Your Highness to. And for him, yes, I had to denigrate myself and talk to him like a 12-year-old who snuck into the movie. My friend Brian likes/loves Zooey Deschanel, and I'm sure this also means he likes naked girls too. In fact, I didn't recommend it to him, but just told him about what I saw, so maybe in some way, the concept will satisfy him enough. But I did not tell him to see for himself.
This movie is going to make a killing at the Dorm Room Theaters across the country, especially when it is being "screened" by a bunch of "inebriated" folk looking for something to watch but that they can also talk over while they slowly fall asleep and plop into their beer-amids. For something that's not a Youtube video and actually costs money, that's not a good sign.
I don't think I meant randomly inflammatory, like the email version of Tourette's, but I don't want to cramp your style. And not to patronize you, but I find it adorable that I asked you - Nick, the vitriolic, cranky one of us - to say something inflammatory the first thing you thought of was "boobs." Underneath all that crusty critic veneer, you're just a wee lad peeping at Daddy's playboy, aren't ya? Yeah, you're a cute one, you are. Oh and I would be squeezing your cheeks and making goo-goo faces at you if we were in a room together...not to at all diminish your capacity as a real, true, authentic adult. Again, I hope that doesn't come off as patronizing, because I have nothing but respect for a grown man who thinks boobs are inflammatory.
Now it's my turn! PENIS!
Nope, the magic is gone. I can't get away with it. I'm not the whimsical pixie you are and it just makes me seem crass. Go frolic in a field somewhere, you free-spirit, you!
Okay, to the heart of the matter: why Your Highness is worth the price of admission. I've seen this movie for free and I would still pay to see it again. Granted, that would probably be my saturation point, but I definitely found it entertaining. And I can't believe that the ONE person you talked to who liked it was - as it sounds from what you said - a total dolt; is it possible, Sir Nick, that people are afraid to tell you when they like a movie? Look what happened to the poor schmoe who dared tell you he liked Your Highness: you put him in an article as the unnamed moron still reading "See Jane Run; See Jane Hop" type of books.
Hey, there, Mr. Fancy-Pants, I liked Your Highness. So there's TWO people you've talked to who liked it, and I are totally not dumb, like yeah!
First of all, Danny McBride was FREAKIN' hilarious. The ONLY scene I didn't like were the naked mud women - although if you watched cheesy Medieval movies in the 80s you'd know that sexy, dirty nymphs are a staple. You didn't giggle at all when Fabious was coaxing Thadeous into being the best man at his wedding?
Franco: "And who's going to have the best mustache in the wedding party?" McBride: (Sheepishly), "Me."
The bonhomie between Franco and McBride would have been enough for me. I have the capacity to enjoy ridiculously stupid movies if the main characters look like they're having a blast. But I thought Your Highness was consistently entertaining and sometimes...dare I say it?...smart. They crafted the plot out of carefully chosen fantasy cliches, like they had a checklist of all the mainstays they had to include and then they put a completely unique spin on it.
Come on, Nick. The deviant wizard with the bubbling brain who looks like something out of a Jim Henson movie, but comports himself like Humbert Humbert? And when Thadeous discovers that his brother has been, essentially, trading sexual favors with the wizard since he was a boy, there is this exchange between Franco and McBride:
Franco: "Sometimes we did other things." McBride: "Like what?" Franco: "We'd take off our shirts and jump on the bed."
I KNOW if I'd been there with you, I would have caught you laughing. I just KNOW it. I suspect that you secretly enjoy these movies, but you'd only admit it after hours of torture.
Before this continues, I feel that I must clear up two things. One: My aforementioned hombre hasn't seen the film yet, and probably never will. I did talk to him about the movie, and the conversation with him stands as the only moment I've talked positively about Your Highness, as I was (as mentioned before) telling him that he might be amused by the plethora of bare bosoms, and the general presence of a true pixie, Zooey D.
I have talked to one other non-critic friend who has seen it, and he said, after saying that it "wasn't that bad," he said: "I wished I was higher." So there's that.
Second, I did laugh at one part concerning the Henson-like puppet, which was amusing at first, but started to become very obvious before the joke was even close to over. Later on, McBride makes a very direct reference to the wizard's relationship, and says like "My brother was molested by a wizard." That line was funny. The line you mentioned, I did not laugh at. And the line you mentioned reminds me of how I enjoyed MacGruber but others hated it (and I liked it when I was "on the job" too, as I wrote a review for it). Other bits of dialogue, especially ones that are aiming to be funny by throwing in a random cuss word at the end, (as the Narrator says " ... and lots of serious shit" before the movie begins) were very weak, and forced. If you have other instances of lines that made you laugh, I'd be curious to hear them. And no - I wouldn't lunge out at the chance to poo-poo them.
Your Highness is the type of movie that must have been fun to make, but the same joy doesn't spread through the audience. One can imagine the cast and crew laughing to themselves about how silly their haircuts are, or how Toby Jones doesn't have genitalia, or how drug references are easily snuck in. For us, we get that there are jokes, and that the entire joke is that it's a medieval stoner comedy, but not much is built from there. It's a self-amusing movie, that thinks it can be funny simply with its settings or with its jumbling of medieval dialogue with slacker gusto. It's a bit surprising they don't make any dialogue references to something like Star Wars.
My frustrations with Your Highness reminded me of how much I disliked the recent Simon Pegg/Nick Frost movie Paul, which I saw on my own dime, hoping just to have fun, but wanted to walk out. That recent genre comedy stands to me as an example of two experienced writers making some well below their standards, and resorting to lame gag concepts like gay jokes to garner up cheap laughs. Your Highness has this same problem, and the same diminished sense of humor. Too many of the jokes are expected, though it's coming from the type of people that have made us laugh with the unexpected (as you mentioned in your review, The Foot Fist Way, for example).
I knew there was a problem when I wasn't laughing about Danny McBride carrying a minotaur's penis around his neck. A concept so ridiculous and crude, combined with the pride that McBride had about transporting it around near his face, should have done something. It didn't.
Thankfully, the action sequences are decent. The scene in the tower is fairly exciting for an otherwise non-stimulating movie, one of which I only laughed/guffawed/chuckled probably no more than five or six times throughout. I would have loved to have laughed more. It would have been great if this had been a better movie, and not just an inside joke for folk (from David Gordon Green through Natalie Portman) who will try to put this one behind them soon for the sake of work that is bound to be more valuable.
"Minotaur penis" has the same syllabic cadence of "Detachable penis," and I spent an embarrassing amount of time looking over the King Missile song for places to insert "Minotaur penis" (that's what she said) for "Detachable penis." Alas, KM has outsmarted me again and I could not do it. Perhaps I'll find a place for "Minotaur penis" in The Cheesecake Song.
I have to agree that they tended to take the jokes too long and too far - a bit like SNL, actually. They reach their zenith point with the humor and then they don't know when to stop, which can sour the joke. For example, I reached my climax with the minotaur penis pretty quickly (that's what she said) after that first scene where Danny McBride is triumphantly astride a rock formation, wearing it around his neck. It's funny at first and then after he's been wearing it for twenty minutes, you're ready for that particular joke to excuse itself and go on home.
I think the trick to it is to recognize that possibility and to decide to enjoy yourself regardless. It's still funny before it wanders into "too much," so forgive it its flaws and focus on the good. From your perspective, all those defects have an accumulative value and I understand that; I'm more forgiving when it comes to certain types of comedy starring specific actors (Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Danny McBride, Steve Carell). Perhaps that's what separates the mice from the men when it comes to being a film critic, but I can tell you that as a mouse, I have a much better time with more movies than you do.
Oh well. C'est la vie. If not for our radically different approaches to movies, we wouldn't be so darned fluid with these little contentions of ours. I've grown to enjoy poking you in the movie nerves with a stick, and I know you like patting me on the head and feeling sorry for me that I have to live with such a low IQ ... I think we're a great couple. It's interesting that I focus on the positives and ignore the negatives and you tend to be the opposite...except with the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street and I'm convinced you went into that screening high on ecstasy or otherwise impaired.
I would see Your Highness again without a doubt. I laughed enough and I loved the cast, and that's all I need to be happy. Think of it this way: Your Highness is like drunk lampshade guy at the party. Yes, at some point he'll topple over and break something and he's already spilled his beer all over the place and offended the sh*t out of most of your guests, but you still laughed like crazy. You'll continue to think about how funny it was and in a decade he's all you'll remember about that particular party (albeit it with a complex amalgam of amusement and mortification).
It's time for me to stop riding the minotaur penis and let you have one last spin.
There's not much more to say, other than Morrow has given me final word, which lets me say two things: I win this round and I like/love dumb, dumb, dumb comedies as much as the next guy/gal, but I like them when they are actually funny. McBride has done much better. Time for me to return to my Hot Rod altar.