Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: David Gordon Green
Stars: James Franco, Danny McBride, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Theroux, Charles Dance, Damian Lewis, Toby Jones.
If Judd Apatow had made The Princess Bride, then chances are if would have ended up resembling Your Highness. Your Highness is not a parody of the cliches of the fantasy genre (like Epic Movie, etc), but rather an irreverent, contemporary flavoured comedic take on the medieval adventure. The opening credits sequence immediately alerts us to what to expect, as we see an old fashioned Prince Valiant-like heroic tale defaced with graffiti and hand drawn phallic symbols.
Prince Fabious (James Franco) is the handsome, heroic heir to the throne of the kingdom. His brother Thadeous (Danny McBride) is a chubby, surly, hedonistic and cowardly slacker, more concerned with his debauched lifestyle than being involved in the politics of court and jealous of Fabious’s popularity. When Fabius’s bride-to-be Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) is kidnapped by the evil sorcerer Leezar (Justin Theroux, from Six Feet Under, Parks And Recreation, etc), Fabious sets out on an epic quest to rescue her.
He reluctantly brings Thadeous along, hoping that they will bond while facing all sorts of dangers. During their mission the pair face many dangerous encounters, including some treacherous knights, a perverted Yoda-like wizard, witches, fearsome creatures, topless female bandits, and even the fabled Minotaur.
Although the script is credited to McBride and his Eastbound & Down collaborator Ben Best, much of the dialogue was apparently improvised on the set. However, it seems that everyone involved enjoyed themselves immensely during the making of the film. Consequently, the film is full of raunchy, anachronistic, scatological and puerile humour, and there is a surfeit of homoerotic humour that almost becomes unbearable. Unfortunately, while some of the film works a treat, there are many more moments that fall awkwardly flat. And some scenes seem to be awaiting that killer punch line that never comes.
Former indie darling David Gordon Green (All The Real Girls, etc) has previously embraced big budget mainstream film making with the superior stoner comedy Pineapple Express where he also worked with Franco and McBride. He brings a sense of exuberance to the material. And having worked with McBride extensively on Eastbound & Down, Green seems to know how to get the best out of his star.
The film boasts a superb supporting cast of reputable English actors, but the likes of Charles Dance, Damian Lewis and Toby Jones seem uncomfortable with both the material and the impromptu nature of the dialogue. Franco camps it up wonderfully and seems to relish his role here. McBride is well cast as the sullen unheroic Thadeous, and he gets some of the best lines. Theroux relishes his role as the dastardly villain of the piece, and chews the scenery at appropriate moments. Rasmus Hardiker (better known for playing Steve Coogan’s sidekick in Saxondale) is well cast as Thadeous’s trusted valet Courtney. Natalie Portman arrives on the scene relatively late in proceedings, but she lends some much-needed gravitas to the material as Isabel, a formidable warrior who helps our heroes in their quest. She must be a good sport to have taken part in Your Highness, especially given some of the things the script asks of her.
Production values are solid and there are some good special effects throughout. There is also some spectacular widescreen cinematography from Green’s usual collaborator Tim Orr. Mixing Star Wars with Dungeons And Dragons and stoner humour, Your Highness is a mildly amusing low brow medieval romp targeted at adolescent males, who will enjoy it immensely.