The dual-review film criticism site: first a spoiler-free review, then an in-depth Alternate Take.
Your Highness

Reviewed by Jim Holden.

Director David Gordon Green
Length 102 mins
Certificate 15 / R
Rating *****-----
Filmmaking: 2  Personal enjoyment: 3

Photo from the article Trailer.

This film virtually screams contradiction. David Gordon Green - arthouse-turned-stoner-comedy auteur - directs James Franco, Natalie Portman and Danny McBride in a foul-mouthed medieval romp that’s as much about comic set pieces and dick jokes as sweeping adventure. Or, as McBride puts it, it’s “Barry Lyndon (1975) meets Krull (1983)”.

Helpfully, the central plot is familiarly straight-forward. Franco is Fabious, a handsome Prince who helps guard his father’s kingdom, and McBride is Thadeous, Fabious’s younger brother - resentful of his brother’s fame, and a lazy slob. When Fabious’ bride-to-be, Belladonna (Zooey Deschannel), is kidnapped by the evil Leezar (Justin Theroux), the king demands that Thadeous join his brother in a quest to rescue her.

The film is indebted to eighties sword-and-sorcery films such as The Beastmaster (1982), and one might wonder if this was a genre that needed rejuvenating. Unlike many comedies of its ilk, the fantasy genre backdrop here means that plot becomes key: Belladonna does need to be rescued, and all needs to be righted in the world. And as an adventure narrative there is some predictable fun to be had: the action is surprisingly well-handled, and when the movie wants to feel ‘epic’ it does. However, as with any thinly disguised buddy movie, what the film will be predominantly judged on is its comedy, which in this case is problematic. Like Green and McBride's previous Pineapple Express (2008) - a far superior and more likable film - Your Highness follows an approach that without much difficulty we can now define as ‘Apatow-esque’ - combing juvenilia and male bonding with improvisation and a degree of sweetness. You can imagine that great fun was had on set, and some of that rubs off on the film, but the juxtaposition of the medieval setting and the contemporary humour is often rather clunky, and the jokes quickly become repetitive.

Watchable but rarely hilarious, then, the film nonetheless has its merits. The supporting cast of British thespians are frequently good fun (Damien Lewis is entertaining, Toby Jones perhaps less so), and Portman is wonderful, making her one-dimensional female kick-ass role commanding, and generally acting everyone else off the screen. Its fundamental peculiarity also guarantees that Your Highness is a real curiosity, and it will surely gain a second life on DVD as a cult favourite (after all, how many films feature a Minotaur penis as a punch line?). Yet there is a lingering sense that Green, and especially McBride, wanted to make this film rather more than the public needed to see it.

This review was published on April 20, 2011.

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