Film Review: “Your Highness”

by Jason LeRoy on April 8, 2011

Natalie Portman, Danny McBride, James Franco, and Zooey Deschanel in YOUR HIGHNESS. Photo by Frank Connor – © 2011 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

starring: Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Theroux, Rasmus Hardiker, Toby Jones

written by: Danny McBride and Ben Best

directed by: David Gordon Green

MPAA: Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity, violence and some drug use.

Your Highness is so profoundly silly and ridiculous that it feels farcical to even attempt a review of it. Danny McBride stars as Thadeous, the underachieving stoner brother of Fabious (James Franco, perfectly cast), a dashing and heroic prince beloved by his people. Thadeous resents his brother and the inferiority he feels toward him. But when Fabious’ fiancée, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel, boobs thrust up as offerings at the altar of medieval corset cleavage) is kidnapped by an evil wizard (Justin Theroux), the two princes go on an epic odyssey across a fantasy landscape of monsters and other mythical creatures to find her. Along the way they encounter Isabel (Natalie Portman), a female warrior out to avenge herself against the same wizard who kidnapped Belladonna.

According to director David Gordon Green, who has graduated from such universally acclaimed indie dramas as George Washington and All the Real Girls to high-powered, big-studio stoner action comedies like this and Pineapple Express, the origin of the film is a game he used to play with his frequent collaborator McBride. Green would throw out a title for a movie, and McBride would come up with a plot. One of those titles was Your Highness, to which McBride said, “It’s about a prince that smokes weed and fights dragons.” So there you go. That same sense of creatively juvenile improvisation informs this entire film.

While the title and marketing would suggest a Cheech & Chong-style pot party, that isn’t strictly the case. As Green articulately told Movieline, “In my head it’s not a stoner movie, it’s a stoners’ movie. Because there’s a little bit of weed smoking in it but it’s not like you can really hang your hat on it. It’s just more of a movie, I think, for a mentality of somebody that likes to open their mind a little bit and have a good time at the movies. They’ll enjoy this movie.” Yeah, what he said. If you’re worried this is one of those comedies where the characters just sit around getting high and then accidentally get mixed up in some kind of hijinks, fear not. But if you happen to be that kind of person, you’ll probably enjoy it (if you can get your shit together enough to make it to the theater).

So how does one critically evaluate a movie like this? Essentially, it’s a deliriously vulgar A-list spoof movie. Everyone is doing their own hilariously divergent interpretations of a medieval British accent. The cast appears to be having an extremely fun time (except Portman, who was training for Black Swan during production, but I guess that paid off). Is it funny? Yes, very much so. As long as you share its insatiable appetite for relentlessly childish dick jokes, balls-out absurdity, and improvisational comedic one-upsmanship. Fortunately, I do. Your Highness is an inspired example of what happens when smart people set out to make the stupidest fucking movie possible. Personally, I’d say they’ve succeeded.

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