Your Highness

3 May

Title: Your Highness
Year: 
2011
Director: 
David Gordon Green
Writers: Danny McBride and Ben Best
Starring: 
Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Toby Jones, Justin Theroux, Rasmus Hardiker
MPAA Rating: 
R, strong crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity, violence and some drug use
Runtime: 
102 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 
24%

David Gordon Green’s last film, 2008’s Pineapple Express, I consider to be one of the five best comedies of the past decade and is a film I can watch over and over again, and it’s one of those that if I ever catch on TV I will stop doing whatever it is I’m doing to keep watching it. Seriously, that film is full of hysterical moments coming from the likes of James Franco, Seth Rogen, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson, and even since that August I’ve been waiting to see what the guy was going to do next. It’s not as though the guy has just been MIA from our lives for the past three years, the guy has been on the director’s chair for half of the Eastbound & Down episodes there have been to date, and that show, which also stars Mr. McBride, is probably one of the five funniest ones on television right now.

So, you see, when the details started lining up for Mr. Green’s follow-up to Pineapple Express I was unable to contain my excitement. Not only would he remain in the stoner comedy genre that helped him craft that hilarious film, and not only was he now taking that funniness to medieval times, but he also got himself a tremendous cast. Mr. Franco and Mr. McBride are still there for him to work with and so are Zooey Deschanel, whom he had already directed to sublime effects in the tremendous All the Real Girls, not to mention that Natalie Portman, fresh off her Oscar victory for Black Swan is also part of the cast here. For those regular readers of mine you might already know that to me Ms. Deschanel is far and out the most gorgeous creature on earth, and also a seriously talented actress, and Ms. Portman, who’s pretty damn hot herself, is also ridiculously good. So yeah, this movie, on paper at least, was fool-proof.

On execution, however, it’s a whole different story. This is far from the worst film I’ve seen all year, but it just might be one of the most disappointing. You can tell they really tried their best to making the medieval feel genuine, the budget was twice as big as the one for Pineapple Express and it shows on the scale and costumes this movie counts on, but raunchy improv-heavy comedies don’t really need all of that, they just need people being funny, and by concentrating too much of the medieval-ness of it all Your Highness sometimes forgets about just being plain funny and ends up on a monotonous road that is often funny, but not as often as it should have been, or at least as I would have wanted it to be.

Look, I didn’t dislike Your Highness, and when people ask me about it I may even recommend it because it’s quite good fun. The thing is that if you’re like me and were hoping that this one was going to be just as great as The Pineapple Express, if not better, you’re in for a rude awakening, and you’ll find yourself frustrated about seeing these immensely talented people working with material that’s not worthy of them. I don’t know if that’s because the script, written by Mr. McBride along with Ben Best (who co-created Eastbound & Down with Mr. McBride as well as wrote some episodes for it), didn’t give them the proper cues or lines to be awesome or if, by making their actors feel free to do as much improv as they want, not even using a script on-set and just relying on notes and vague outlines, Mr. Green let this one go off its rails. Maybe it’s a combination of both, I don’t know, it just should have been much more than this.

Some critics are hating on this one quite a lot, Roger Ebert, the best one out there, gave it 1 star, ditto with Peter Travers, and Andrew O’Hehir said that for a few hours after having seen it he considered it may have be the worst movie ever made. Not to mention that the always-defiant Armond White went ahead and gave it a good review, which usually means the movie’s actually bad. But those opinions are really too harsh, I didn’t adore this to the level that I adored The Pineapple Express and No Strings Attached, that other film this year starring Ms. Portman, is a better movie than this one is, but it’s not that bad. And my guess is that some of the people that didn’t get this film just didn’t get it because they were totally not the target audience this one was aiming for.

Because, you see, if The Pineapple Express had a very definite audience for all its stoner jokes (though it laughed its way to the bank with $100 million in box office gross), then this one has an audience that’s infinitely more limited than that because it’s appealing not only to those who love stoner comedy, but who love medieval films as well. This is a film you’ll enjoy only if you go to see it high as a kite or if you’re one of us who love the 80’s fantasy movies and Dungeons & Dragons and the whole nine yards in between. And the people involved in Your Highness won’t care if you don’t like their film if you’re not part of that group of people because all their energy is spent into pleasing those of us who are. Not to mention that they were so obviously having the best time just filming this one so they probably won’t care either way.

And yet even though I’m a huge fan of that genre these guys are spoofing, and even though I clearly acknowledge the love these guys certainly seem to have for the genre, I’m still not sure I really loved this film all that much. Comparisons to The Pineapple Express aside, as necessary as they may prove to be, this is still not that great. But anyways, let’s take a look at the story it’s telling. It’s the story of Thadeous, Mr. McBride’s character who’s the character Mr. McBride is used to playing of the lazy-ass, foul-mouthed and inappropriate guy who this time around is the brother of Fabious, Mr. Franco’s character, who’s the heir to the throne and super macho like all the princes of the 80’s fantasy films are.

In any case, the bride of Fabious, which would be the part the stunning Ms. Deschanel gets to play, is kidnapped by the movie’s villain, who’s played by Justin Theroux who I think is quite good. So of course Fabious is to set on a quest to rescue his virgin bride from the hands of an evil sorcerer, it’s just that this time, at his father’s persistence, Thadeous is forced to tag along. And also tagging along is a very mysterious warrior girl they meet on the way, which would be Ms. Portman’s character. And that plot is one I like, and the idea of embedding it with some stoner references and a lot of modern profanities is one I embraced at first, but it turns out the laughs we get out of them are way too dumb.

Not that there’s anything wrong with a dumb laugh, Pineapple Express had them and they were great, and this one after all does reference a genre and films that were quite dumb themselves. And I do admit I gave this film a bit of hate at the beginning of this review, but that was just me venting off about this one not being the next Pineapple Express, but as a guy who’s unashamedly in love with fantasy films and their worlds, and has a special place in his heart for those bad ones made in the eighties, I thought this one was pretty genius, dumb as it may have been it was sure as hell made by smart people.

And finally let me just address on this closing paragraph to the other group of haters of Your Highness. If you’re part of the bunch that’s hating on Your Highness not because it’s not the next Pineapple Express but rather because it’s not the next George Washington or All the Real Girls or Undertow or Snow Angels, which were all pretty awesome and had a huge amount of emotional depth and showed Mr. Green as a director that showed a tremendous potential as a very exciting auteur (Terrence Malick was a producer on Undertow for god’s sake!) then let me just tell you something: get over it. Sure, those movies were amazing and if Mr. Green decided to go back to that area I would so welcome that, but if he wants to keep doing comedies, which seems to be the cast as he’s releasing The Sitter with Jonah Hill this August, then just leave him be, this one wasn’t amazing but it was still decent enough, and he’s proven he can actually do an awesome comedy, so yeah, leave him be, and this review is more than long enough already so I’ll leave it at that.

Grade: B

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One Response to “Your Highness”

  1. CMrok93 May 23, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

    It could have been so much funnier, but with what I got, I laughed for the most part. Juts lazy comedy really. Good Review!

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