In a medieval fantasy world, the noble, valiant Prince Fabious (Franco) embarks on a quest to reclaim his betrothed (Deschanel) after she is kidnapped by the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux). Also along for the ride, however, is Fabious sweary, under
If you’ve not seen that trailer then yes, this is a fantasy movie from the guys who brought you Pineapple Express and TV’s Eastbound & Down. Take a moment and imagine all that entails.
Love or hate what you just dreamed up, you’re pretty much on the money. But even if you have seen that trailer, it won’t quite give you the whole picture. It’s important to know that Your Highness isn’t a parody of the early ’80s fantasy genre (Krull, The Beastmaster et al), it’s one of them, and it just happens to be a comedy — their style of comedy. So that’d be ‘no’ to deliberately crummy sets and effects, but ‘yes’ to loads of puerile stoner humour amongst the swords and sorcery.
Your Highness is the long-gestating brainchild of David Gordon Green and frequent partner-in-crime Danny McBride, who’s perfectly at home as the sullen, sulky Thadeous, a man who would rather be smoking dope than being best man at his loving brother’s wedding. James Franco as the favoured son again demonstrates his considerable comic skills, while Natalie Portman shows up as a tight leather-wearing warrior woman out for revenge, and Justin Theroux makes an impression as the dastardly, socially awkward Leezar.
The British accents might be all over the place, but in this case that’s no bad thing — certainly not as problematic as the British supporting cast (Charles Dance, Toby Jones, Damian Lewis), who seem lost in the endless ad-libbing, this becoming the film’s single biggest issue.
Green himself makes no secret of his dislike for using scripts on set, claiming that virtually all of Your Highness was extemporised. That would be fine if it was working to the levels of, say, Anchorman, but here even fans won’t be able to claim a gag success rate much past 50 per cent. When it works, it’s hilarious, but almost like clockwork, for every pearler (pervy puppet mentors, severed Minotaur ‘trophy’ necklaces) there’s a dud, and dropping swearing into medieval speech is only funny so many times.
Which is not to say that Green and co. have been lazy. There’s a clear love of the genre on display — fantasy geeks should be happy with the mechanical pets, Steve Jablonsky’s spot-on score, and the daffy digressions of the quest — it’s just a pity that they couldn’t nail a few more jokes before the cameras started rolling.
A decent, affectionate, fitfully funny take on the fantasy genre, but this could have been so much more. For fans of this sort of comedy only.