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By Jim Rohner · April 11, 2011
Film, like any art, is subjective. What floats one person's boat might sink someone else's. No matter how cohesively or belligerently one may state their argument, there's just no convincing the other person because sometimes, it's not a matter of opening someone's eyes to an element they may have missed. Sometimes, it's just a matter of different strokes for different folks.
For instance, the first time I saw The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, I remember airing my grievances with the film to a friend of mine. "I didn't like how there were too many quirky things done seemingly just for the sake of including quirky things," I said. "Why was some random crew member constantly singing David Bowie songs in Portuguese?" "That's funny," he replied. "That's actually why I really liked the film." See. Different strokes for different folks.
Or, for a more recent example, Danny McBride. I don't find Danny McBride funny in the slightest and because of that, I find it difficult to derive the fullest amount of enjoyment from his films. And Your Highness is no exception. For those of you who may love Danny McBride, then turn back now – you will find nothing redemptive about this review. But for those folks who agree with my stroke, or for those who may be on the fence about the latest comedy from the director of Pineapple Express, feel free to proceed with my review of this dreadfully unfunny comedy.
Prince Fabious (James Franco) is the pride of whatever kingdom over which his father, King Tallious (Charles Dance) rules. He's completed many quests, has slain and severed the head of a mighty Cyclops, and has even rescued the fair, virginal maiden Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) from the clutches of the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux). This understandably upsets the villain, who makes a point to recapture Belladonna during her wedding to Fabious.
Fabious is determined to get back his bride to be. King Tallious is determined to force his other son, Prince Thadeous (Danny McBridge) to accompany his brother and learn how to be a man. Seeing as Thadeous would rather take on simpler quests like boiling a chicken or beating off in front of a Pegasus (his words, not mine), the learning curve will undoubtedly be steep. Thadeous wants the glory, but lacks the guts to achieve it.
Much to the chagrin of Fabious' loyal right-hand knight, Boremont (Damian Lewis), the incompetent Thadeous accompanies the competent everybody else in a quest to find the Unicorn Blade. According to the Great Wise Wizard, an elderly creature of sorts who requires hand jobs in exchange for wisdom and who allegedly molested Fabious numerous times as a child (their words, not mine), the Unicorn Blade is the only weapon that can slay the otherwise immortal Leezar. So the group sets out, encountering the warrior Isabel (Natalie Portman), a horny minotaur, and a naked Toby Jones along the way.
If all that sounds like it's up your alley, then by all means, more power to you. But those looking for any semblance of intelligence or class would be best served elsewhere because Your Highness is unabashedly lowbrow. This should admittedly be no surprise coming from the team that brought us the equally lowbrow Pineapple Express, but it worked well in that film because it was set in a lowbrow world and revolved around lowbrow characters. Your Highness, however, takes place in a world that, for the most part, is a straight forward fantasy land with the exception of Thadeous, who just seems temporally displaced with his modern era colloquialisms and euphemisms. On paper, that may seem funny, but everybody around Thadeous seems either unimpressed or completely oblivious to the implications of his crudeness, and thus, we're robbed of any humor that could be derived from reactions to his potty mouth.
Sure, some of it is funny, but then some of it is James Franco jerking off a perverted muppet. There's no intelligence or cleverness that have gone into adapting contemporary humor to a fantasy setting like in Robin Hood: Men in Tights; there's just people saying "fuck" a lot and a minotaur trying to rape a cowardly man. Did a sexually frustrated 13-year old who has suddenly taken an interest in washing his own sheets every morning write this script?
Actually no, Danny McBride and Ben Best did and when you consider that McBride wrote the role for himself and that the film's production was heavily improvised, that means that he and director David Gordon Green were confident in the character of Thadeous to hold up the entire film. The problem there is that Thadeous is such an unrepentant and unwarranted prick. He's not even the kind of prick that shows a strength in some other area where there's still some type of emotional or personal connection. Sure, he lives in the shadow of an older sibling – a situation to which I'm sure many of us can relate – but a connection born out of sympathy isn't nearly as strong as one born out of mutual relation. Once again, it comes down to the question of whether or not you think it's awesome to hear a lot of "fucks" in relation to mythical characters.
Natalie Portman manages to escape without looking foolish, but she also just won an Oscar, so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that a great actress left to her own devices manages to bring some type of ballast to what is otherwise a “royal” mess.