3 out of 5 stars
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Twice now, I’ve been unreasonably excited for a comedy directed by David Gordon Green starring James Franco and Danny McBride. Twice now, a brilliantly crafted trailer made the film top my yearly list of must-sees, and twice now, the final product has failed to deliver on that promise.
Many adore the first film I’m referencing, Pineapple Express, but I always thought it could have been so much more than merely “decent.” Now literally everything I thought about that film translates here into Your Highness, where a hilarious trailer yields a far less entertaining feature film.
These movies aren’t bad, they just don’t fully realize their concepts. Pineapple Express was a bit more of a generic stoner comedy, with thugs and weed the central focus. Your Highness is on a higher creative plane, playing with the idea of a fantasy film that incorporates all the modern elements of R-rated comedies, paying little attention to the genre’s usual trappings, and making a fairly unique film.
In that sense, it does succeed, but it’s a far cry from say, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which did something similar with a medieval epic. It’s crude, silly and funny, but ultimately far from a classic, and that dreaded feeling of disappointment crept over me as I watched it, exactly as it had years earlier with Pineapple Express.
Danny McBride is the petulant Prince Thadeous, forever overshadowed by his more noble brother, Prince Fabious (James Franco). While his older sibling is destined to be king, and marches home from quests with a monster’s head in one hand and a beautiful damsel in the other, Thadeous is left only with his squire Courtney and fresh scorn from his father for failing to ever accomplish anything worthy of his or his kingdom’s affection.
Returning home from his latest adventure, Fabious brings home his greatest prize yet, a fair maiden named Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) whom he plans to marry post haste. But his plans are derailed when the evil wizard Leezar shows up to snatch his virginal bride to be so she can be deflowered during a prophesied ceremony that will yield him ultimate power. It’s called “the F*ckening”
I feel like this would have been a good role for an actor I actually recognized.
With his bride gone and his knightly friends betraying him, Fabious turns to Thadeous, and the two of them must quest through the countryside looking for a magical blade to destroy Lazar, and on the way they meet a warrior woman named Isabel (Natalie Portman) who proves to be both a friend and foe as the their journey wears on.
It is admittedly cool to see this sort of genre open up to the kind of crude humor we normally don’t associate with it, but many of the jokes just involve swearing with clearly preposterous old English accents, a gag perhaps relied on too often at points. Cursing in medieval times is not a joke in itself, rather, they should actually be saying something funny as well. Often they do, but a lot of the time the dialogue feel stilted and flat.
There are a host of visual gags as well, from topless wood nymphs to monster genitalia. One recurring gag involves a mechanical bird that’s Fabious’s faithful friend, which must be some reference I either don’t understand, or needed to be really stoned to appreciate.
However, you can be in any state of mind an appreciate this.
McBride’s Thadeous is vulgar and obnoxious, but loveable enough when he chooses to do the right thing. His abuse of his squire Courtney is among the film’s best recurring jokes, and his lust for Isabel is exceedingly awkward, in a good way.
James Franco might have stolen the show in Pineapple Express as the memorable stoner Saul, but here he looks and acts like he’s in some very dramatic high school play, reading lines for Hamlet while trying not to crack a smile as his friends moon him from the audience. The whole script of this movies seems very off the cuff, and seeing McBride act on set before, the man definitely is known for improvising in almost every take, something that has its pros and cons.
But even though the movie looks like a hell of a lot of fun to make, it’s not quite as funny as it should be. The trailer looked like this would be a new comedy classic, and I was looking forward to it over most blockbusters this year. The end result just doesn’t seem to live up to the potential of the concept. It’s funny, but I found myself merely chuckling throughout, rather than all-out laughing in any particular scene. Whoever edited the expertly crafted trailer could have been used here to tightening things up so it feels a bit less like an improv show.
Looks like fun! But yeah, just because you’re laughing in person, doesn’t mean it always translates onscreen.
Your Highness will undoubtedly be better the more substances you take beforehand, but if you’re going into it with clear eyes, and mind full of high expectations from the trailer, you might be let down.
3 out of 5 stars