Wednesday 7 September 2011

Movie Review: YOUR HIGHNESS (2011)

Wednesday 7 September 2011
directed by David Gordon Green; written by Danny McBride & Ben Best
starring Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Justin Theroux & Zooey Deschanel

It was possible for Your Highness to be a subversive send-up of old-fashioned Swords & Sorcery epics, but this fantasy-comedy is from the immature minds of star/co-writer Danny McBride and erstwhile indie director David Gordon Green; old film school friends who've worked together on a handful of projects from The Foot Fist Way to Pineapple Express. Their latest is The Princess Bride with cock and pussy jokes, raising a few arbitrary giggles, but being so uninspired and hateful towards the movies it's mocking as to earn little response beyond tedium and contempt.

Thadeous (McBride) is the tubby, lazy youngest son of King Tallious (Charles Dance)—stuck in the shadow of his dashing older brother Fabious (James Franco), who regularly undertakes dangerous quests with his macho knights and duly receives adulation and a healthy sex life. Then, after evil sorcerer Leezar (Justin Theroux) kidnaps Fabious' virginal bride-to-be Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) on the eve of their wedding, intending to use her in a "Fuckening" ritual to gain unimaginable magical powers (you read that right), Thadeous finds himself pulled into his first ever quest to help rescue his distraught sibling's fiancé. Along the way they encounter beautiful warrior/archer Isabel (Natalie Portman), who eventually joins them to find the mystical "Sword Of Unicorn", which they'll use to defeat Leezar before his ceremony is completed under a binary moon...

Your Highness is crippled by its relentlessly feeble comedy (which thinks it's never not hilarious to mix olde worlde language with modern expletives like "motherfucker"), and a creative strategy with the low aim of enacting the genre's laziest tropes and conventions in a vulgar manner. It's a movie in the vein of mercifully axed TV series Kröd Mändoon & The Flaming Sword Of Fire, and every bit as dreadful as that sounds. A sub-Meet The Feebles puppet reveals itself to be a paedophile who exchanges wisdom for hand-jobs, a minotaur in a labyrinth anally rapes a bug-eyed squire, blah-blah-blah. It's the kind of think drunken minds dream up over a boozy late-night marathon of Krull, Dragonslayer and Ladyhawke, but to put it into a fairly expensive movie when sober demands something cleverer.

I'm not against sordid and coarse humour, but when it's clear the script has nothing else on its mind, it becomes very tiring very quickly. By the time a topless female tribe with poisoned blowpipes arrive, or Thadeous has lopped off a minotaur's penis to wear as a trophy round his neck, your mind is likely to be craving actual wit, innovation, affection and intelligence—so go watch Monty Python & The Holy Grail for the umpteenth time. Nonstop lewdness can only get you so far.

There are only two minor highlights that prevent Your Highness drowning in a swamp of its own fetid creation: the post-Black Swan Portman (plucky, amusing to hear say words like "beaver", blessed with a perfect bottom), and Theroux (given a character who amount to little, but is played with enough restraint to make his raise his dialogue). Beyond that, I'm not saying Your Highness doesn't have moments where it provokes a snigger (and there's a fairly creative "hand-serpent" creature about halfway through), but you're never won over by its thin story or broad characters. Franco is on particularly insufferable, toothy form. It's also a tragic waste of Deschanel, who must have done this movie as a favour to friends; unlike Portman, who assumedly just wanted some money to decorate a nursery, or the chance to show the world what her Black Swan ballet training did for her gluteus maximus.

There's just a deep-seated feeling that the key players didn't grow up adoring movies like Conan The Barbarian, Clash Of The Titans and Beastmaster, they just know in adulthood those are easy targets to imbue with tawdry moments, juvenile jokes, puerile sight gags, and tedious swearing. It's a movie inspired by a r blather between friends who find themselves with the showbiz clout and connections to turn their shitfaced chit-chat into reality.

Your Highness marks nothing but a lowness.

Universal Pictures / 102 minutes