Mark Reviews Movies


1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: David Gordon Green

Cast: Danny McBride, James Franco, Rasmus Hardiker, Natalie Portman, Toby Jones, Justin Theroux, Zooey Deschanel, Charles Dance, Damian Lewis

MPAA Rating: R (for strong crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity, violence and some drug use)

Running Time: 1:42

Release Date: 4/8/11

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Review by Mark Dujsik | April 7, 2011

Your Highness is vulgar, rude, crude, gory, obscene, and fascinated with bodily functions. Before you think I'm writing from the perch of some high horse, let me say this: These are not evils unto themselves. The problem is that these qualities are all the movie has, absent of any context except that they are surrounded by a fantasy world with fairly prominent production values.

The movie is hardly a satirical interpretation of high fantasy filmmaking, though its few funny bits are the ones that intentionally or, at times, unintentionally address certain clichés and conventions. Most of the time, star Danny McBride and Ben Best's script strains to expand the reach of its repetitious jokes, while director David Gordon Green ensures the comic proceedings stop dead in their tracks once this motley crew of heroes and nincompoops encounters any kind of perilous situation.

Thadeous (McBride) is the younger prince of the Kingdom of Mourne. A perennial loser, he is always in the shadow of his older brother Fabious (James Franco), who, as his name suggests, is "the mighty, the magnificent, the wonderful" heir apparent. Even when Fabious is away on a quest to kill this or that mythical beast in service of the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux), the brothers' father King Tallious (Charles Dance) never stop praising his elder son, while wondering how Thadeous could so royally screw up a peace treaty with a nearby dwarf tribe (shown in the opening scene, which, through its display of Thadeous' dumb luck in escaping hanging due to dwarf-sized engineering, is the movie's funniest).

When Fabious returns, it is with the head of a Cyclops and a bride-to-be named Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), whom he had rescued from the wizard's tower. On the day of their nuptials, Leezar re-kidnaps Belladonna. His plan: Invoking an ancient ritual that sounds similar to a "beckoning" but in which the first syllable is replaced with a word that rhymes with "duck," Leezar will bring forth a dragon to do his bidding and destroy Mourne. Faced with losing his regality, Thadeous, along with his manservant Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker), accompanies Fabious, along with his loyal companion Julie (Toby Jones) and his Knights Elite, to rescue Belladonna.

The rest of the plot details unfolds with familiarity. There is treachery (Julie is actually an androgynous spy, allowing Fabious to call him a certain kind of coward). There are challenges, from a journey through a maze to a hedonistic forest leader with an army of topless women who holds gladiatorial games in which participants must face a hydra manipulated by his hand. There is a new companion, the vengeful Isabel (Natalie Portman) who rescues them from the aforementioned creature, leaving the controller with only one finger (Guess which one). She is a formidable opponent and immediately catches Thadeous' eye, despite her sociopathic statements reveling in bloodlust.

The jokes are spread thin throughout this plot-heavy exercise. Leezar takes a break to explain to Belladonna his plan and then tell her about made-up-on-the-spot rumors he's heard regarding Fabious' sex life, which he draws out in anguishing, immature detail. Thadeous must eat the heart of an animal in an act of hazing on the part of Fabious' knights. These are a couple of the few examples of actual gags the movie takes time to develop; the rest are throwaways, like Leezar crushing a fairy into dust and snorting it.

Otherwise, McBride and Best work in often profane anachronisms, so that when Thadeous is about to drop from the dwarf gallows, he lets out a curse. Leezar appears with a one-word cry insulting those around him for sexual activity with one of their parents. Less objectionable to sensitive ears is Fabious' understated encouragement with a simple "Nice." These are primarily the jokes, and while the directness of language is funny the first few times we hear it, it grows tiresome quickly.

Strangest of all are the fight sequences. Green drops any and all attempts at humor whenever the band of warriors encounters a villain. Suddenly, the movie becomes a generic and bloody actioner complete with dismemberments, beheadings, and disembowelings. A gag might be attempted at some point after the fact but is lost in the carnage (The remaining finger is a prime example), although the movie's other best scene results in the grotesque death of a character who immediately beforehand announces his role as fodder by way of a dry line reading.

Your Highness is, above all, an oddity. It screams loudly and tastelessly for attention until the whole affair becomes monotonous. On the trivial side of things: This is probably the first movie to feature a naked Minotaur standing at attention, and yes that is a euphemism. Congratulations are in order?

Copyright © 2011 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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