David Gordon Green cut his teeth on the independent film circuit with stunning tales of small town life. He won critical acclaim for his first two features, George Washington and All the Real Girls. It was with great surprise that Green stepped into the mainstream with Pineapple Express, a hilarious fusion of stoner comedy and action movie. For his follow-up, Green once again returns to the world of lowbrow stoner humor and combines it with the medieval fantasy. Co-written by Eastbound & Down collaborators Danny McBride and Ben Best, Your Highness is like watching drunken fratboys play Dungeons & Dragons.
McBride is Prince Thadeous, a shiftless layabout who is constantly in the shadow of his older brother Prince Fabious (James Franco). Fabious is handsome and brave. Thadeous is lazy, dumpy, and prefers to drinking and getting high to vanquishing the mythical creatures that plague their kingdom. When Fabious’s virginal bride, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), is kidnapped by the evil sorcerer Leezar (Justin Theroux), Thadeous is forced to embark on a quest to rescue her and maybe finally grow up for a change. They are eventually joined by Isabel (Natalie Portman), a huntress also on a quest for vengeance against Leezar. Along the way, our ragtag band of heroes encounters topless forest nymphs, horny Minotaurs, and a pedophiliac wizard.
The cast also includes: Charles Dance as King Tallious, Rasmus Hardiker (who looks like the illegitimate son of Emo Philips) as Thadeous’s valet Courtney, Damian Lewis as Fabious’s right-hand knight Boremont, and Toby Jones as Fabious’s smarmy valet Julie.
While Franco sends up his pretty boy image, McBride reprises the obnoxious jerk role he has perfected. Both leads play their roles with aplomb, but the real surprise has to be Justin Theroux, who steals numerous scenes as the villainous Leezar. Theroux portrays him less as a megalomaniacal necromancer and more of a LARP geek lashing out at the jocks who always gave him wedgies. Theroux also gets some of the movie’s best lines; ”If your vagina is anything like my hand…there’ll be no problem.”
Your Highness seems like an odd choice for an Oscar-winning actress, but Natalie Portman was a welcome addition to the cast. She may not have the fire to play a convincing warrior woman, but she looks absolutely phenomenal in a leather thong. Her well-toned buttocks were so glorious that censors digitally covered it up for the trailer lest unsuspecting audiences be overwhelmed by the pure beauty.
Unfortunately, a great deal of the humor in Your Highness falls flat. The film never takes the opportunity to truly lambaste the conventions of the fantasy genre that inspired it. Fabious possesses a mechanical bluebird ala Clash of the Titans, but the joke never goes anywhere. It’s the kind of empty reference you’d find on an average Family Guy episode. McBride chooses the easy route by relying on the requisite dick and fart jokes expected of an R-rated comedy. Characters speak in faux-British accents while hurling anachronistic insults like ‘motherfucker.’ There is also an overabundance of homophobic humor that borders on the repugnant. One of the movie’s most bizarre moments comes when the brothers seek advice from a hookah smoking Muppet, who looks like he was thrown off the set of The Dark Crystal. Fabious has a bad trip and reveals he may have participated in Michael Jackson-esque slumber parties with the old sage. The scene goes on way too long and strains the already thin joke. That pretty much sums up the whole picture.
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The transfer is flawless with the picture coming in bright and crystal clear. The colors are strong and skin tones are life-like without the orange fake tan look that plagues some discs.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The film’s numerous action sequences provide some of the disc’s livelier moments. You can feel the thundering hooves of the horses during the carriage chase.
The Blu-Ray includes an audio commentary with David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, James Franco, and Justin Theroux. Information comes at a fast and furious pace as the participants discuss how the concept came about as a gag during Green and McBride’s film school days. The participants also talk about the characters and the improvisational style employed during production.
Damn You Gods: The Making of Your Highness (30:14) is a behind-the-scenes documentary that doesn’t dig in too deep, but is an informative look at the making of the film.
Line-O-Rama (4:03) is a collection of rapid-fire lines that were ad libbed and left on the cutting room floor.
Perverted Visions (2:32) is a collection of outtakes from the Great Wise Wizard scene.
A Vision of Leezar (2:57) is a quick b-roll of Justin Theroux practicing his evil laugh as Leezar.
The Blu-Ray also includes a gag reel and numerous deleted, alternate, and extended scenes. You’ll also get a code to download a Digital Copy of the movie to iTunes or Windows Media Player.
Film Value: 4
Your Highness didn’t find much of an audience during its theatrical run. The $50 million budget movie pulled in approximately half of its production costs in worldwide grosses. It probably had a lot to do with how Highness fails to work as a proper send-up of fantasy pictures such as Excalibur or Willow. It’s an uninspired comedy with a few scattered moments of amusement. This is a film strictly for those of you with a high tolerance for humor revolving around penises and masturbation.