“Your Highness” marks new low for David Gordon Green

Portman, McBride, Franco and Deschanel marvel at just how bad "Your Highness" really is.

It’s a simple question not of weight ratios, but of the law of averages. After a string of successes, director David Gordon Green was due for a miss. “Your Highness,” Danny McBride and Ben Best’s surprisingly unoriginal and unfunny attempt at a medieval spoof, is certainly a miss. In fact, considering that Green directed the wonderful indie gem “All the Real Girls” and the hysterical pot comedy “Pineapple Express,” this film is a Trojan Rabbit of a miss. A miss so large that an African swallow and a European swallow working in tandem could not carry it. Not even Ahchoo’s Air Jordans could help Gordon run away from it.

These “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” allusions are unfair. No film has topped “Holy Grail” in its madcap send-up of medieval culture. And McBride and Best do not try to model “Your Highness” after this comedy classic, so comparison is unwanted. But I don’t care. Given the creativity of Best and McBride’s “The Foot Fist Way” and McBride’s genius line delivery, there’s no excuse for this kind of aimlessness. Even aimlessness could be excused if “Your Highness” had a little satire or more than, say, three scenes that induced more than a polite chuckle. But the film is curiously stale, flat, unfunny and uninspired — a lethal combination. A greater crime than any of these is the general listlessness of the performances. Only Natalie Portman, as a fierce, vengeance-obsessed female warrior, and Justin Theroux, as an articulate sorcerer with outrageous hair, register a pulse. Franco’s acting is on par with his recent performance (or non-performance) at the Academy Awards. McBride, who made magic (and a lot of roaches) with Franco and Seth Rogen in “Pineapple Express,” couldn’t look more disinterested. He sleepwalks through the entire movie, which is cause for concern. If the prospect of making out with Natalie Portman dressed as Xena: Warrior Princess can’t put some pep in a guy’s step, he’s beyond help. Or dead.

The plot of “Your Highness,” however, is not totally beyond help, though it isn’t particularly earth-shattering. McBride and Franco play Thadeous and Fabious, respectively, the very different sons of King Tallious (Charles Dance). It’s a dichotomy as old as time: Little brother Thadeous is a scoundrel and a layabout, while Fabious is a handsome, dashing warrior beloved by all. During his latest quest, Fabious rescued a winsome virgin named Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel, who, as usual, appears really, really bored) that he plans to marry and promptly deflower. But malevolent sorcerer Leezar (Theroux) has plans for a grand “fuckening” of his own and kidnaps Belladonna, forcing Thadeous, his effeminate squire (oh! a girly squire! how original!) Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker) and Fabious on a hasty quest to rescue Belladonna. Along the way, they encounter Isabel (Portman), a tough-talking fighter out to kill Leezar for murdering her family. Portman is intense enough that she seems somewhat out of place in “Your Highness,” though every zany romp — even bad ones — needs a good straight man. It helps if the straight man has dainty cleavage.

There’s also a smattering of sorta-amusing secondary characters, like Julie (Toby Jones), a devious little person hiding absolutely nothing in his trousers, and Boremount (Damian Lewis), Fabious’ right-hand man who is furious that he’s been replaced by the cowardly Thadeous. (It would not be considered a spoiler to reveal that Boremount is, like, so gay for Fabious, because who didn’t see that coming? Anyone?) Not to be outdone is Timotay Dungeon Master (Tobias Winter), who presides over a Roman-esque legion of forest warriors and commands an atrociously rendered CGI dragon creature — all while sporting a Flock of Seagulls ‘do and an adult diaper. He’s bizarre enough to draw a few laughs, but most of the film’s genuine humor belongs to Theroux. He milks his role as Leezar for all it’s worth, spouting off lines like “magic, motherfucker” and leering impressively. Without Theroux, aside from the odd sight gag (take note of Thadeous’ unorthodox quest trophy), there wouldn’t be many reasons to laugh in “Your Highness.” If anything, when we consider “Your Highness” as a waste of Gordon Green’s talent, suicidal depression is far more likely.

Grade: D

11 Responses

  1. This looks bad and I’m pretty sure someone’s done the exact same movie before? There’s that one with Heath Ledger and another that I just can’t put my finger on, a knight time “comedy” I think Hayden Christensen was in it ..

    • You’re thinking of “A Knight’s Tale,” which I quite enjoyed. But who doesn’t love Paul Bettany as Geoffrey Chaucer? I still can’t believe a movie written by DANNY MCBRIDE — none other than Kenny Powers himself — could be this uninteresting. Boo.

      • I like A Knight’s Tale, too, the only weak link on that one is Shannyn Sosswhatevahernameis with her terrible British accent. But Heath, Paul and Rufus Sewell were all wonderful.

        As for this one, I had no interest in seeing this from the trailer, couldn’t even finish watching even that. I don’t get the appeal of McBride (nor that Zach G from Hangover movie) and Franco repeating his sleepy ‘performance’ from the Oscars? No thanks.

  2. 5plitreel…Heath Ledger was in “A Knight’s Tale” but I don’t think it was a “comedy” per se. There were comedic scenes/dialogue but I think it was billed more as an Action/Romance. I don’t recall Hayden being in it but it’s been a LONG time since I’ve seen it.

    As far as “Your Highness,” I’ll watch it simply for the fact that Natalie Portman is in it. I’ve seen a bunch of bad movies for less. :-) This looks like one of those movies where they show all the good/funny parts in the trailers.

  3. this is unfortunate, but the trailer never looked any good either. Love David Gordon Green, hope he recovers with his next one

    • Even the Coen brothers’ have a few flubs in their history … I’m hoping this was a fluke!

  4. I want to try and sneak into a screening just to see how bad it is. I love David Gordon Green but I’m not happy with some of the decisions he’s making with his career as he’s looking to do remakes.

    I really hope he goes back to making original projects again.

  5. I was tempted to review this, if only to devote at least four paragraphs to the curvature of Portman’s ass. From the advertising, it seemed obvious that the producers knew that this was a turkey and so the only way anyone would want to see it would be for a rare glimpse of her near-nudity – it’s even freeze-framed in the trailer, fer chrissakes!

  6. Didn’t hate this as much as others did, just wish it could have been so much better than what I actually got. Good Review!

    • @ Steven — I fear “Pineapple Express” gave him a taste of commercial success, and he got hooked. Like you, I want him not to lose his indie sensibility.

      @ Colin — Entire books could be written about the curvature of Portman’s ass. It is quite fetching. And I hadn’t considered that about the trailer, but you’re right. The funny thing is that Danny McBride doesn’t seem all that psyched to make out with her.

      @ Dan — We agree on that: It could have (and should have) been much better.

  7. Tis a shame considering how much I like McBride and Portman. Maybe she could do a guest-spot on Eastbound and Down.

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