Earlier this year we saw if it was possible to combine the stoner comedy with the comic book hero movie in The Green Hornet. Now we try the same experiment with the fantasy epic in Your Highness. And the result is actually pretty fun.
Prince Fabious (James Franco) of the kingdom of Morn. He is a brave, bold adventurer, recently returned from yet another noble quest with the head of a giant cyclops in a bag. His brother, Prince Thadeous (Danny McBride), is rather less epic. He prefers getting drunk and/or stoned, going for a roll in the hay — even when it sours a peace treaty he’s supposed to be signing with the dwarves kingdom — and being entertained with funny faces by his valet, Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker).
Fabious, as it turns out, has brought back another trophy from his recent adventure: the virginal Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), who has been kept since infancy by the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux). Being shut away in a tower has kept her innocent of many things — including table manners and the existence and nature of forks — but Fabious is smitten anyway.
At the practically-immediate wedding, Leezar shows up and kidnaps Belladonna right back. It turns out she’s instrumental in an evil ritual whereby he… well, it’s not really important, but it’s called — in all seriousness — The Fuckening. King Tallious (Charles Dance) orders Thadeous to accompany Fabious on the inevitable quest to rescue Belladonna.
And so they set off on a rollicking journey, full of swords and sorcery, treasure and treachery, and enlisting the aid of, the beautiful and deadly Isabel (Natalie Portman), a very unlucky barbarian (Simon Cohen), a mechanical songbird, and a very sketchy muppet wizard.
Of course Franco spends the bulk of his screen time mugging for the camera. This is true to a lesser extent of McBride and Hardiker, but they seem more bemused in their disconnection from the action. If you like Franco, this performance is the sort of thing you’ll like.
I have to give full credit to the supporting cast, though, who absolutely commit to the bit with archest seriousness. Portman, in particular, delivers some of the worst canned fantasy dialogue I’ve ever heard with every bit as much earnestness as she showed in Black Swan. I’d wonder if there was some trick to it — the way Slim Pickens recorded his scenes in Dr. Strangelove thinking it was a drama — but there’s just no way she wasn’t full conscious of how incredibly stupidity sounds.
And that’s really where this movie scores points: it knows exactly how stupid it is, and yet it absolutely goes for it. In particular, they could easily have tried to turn up the scatological humor and turn down the drugs, sex, and language, and gone for a PG-13. But they didn’t, and comparing the green-band and red-band trailers shows how much of a difference this makes.
And yet it’s also instructive to go back and compare this movie with David Gordon Green’s previous outing: Pineapple Express. Again, that movie embraces its own silliness, and yet it rises above it. For one thing, it’s a lot more honest about the connection between stoner comedies and people getting stoned. For another, the Franco-McBride dynamic works a lot better as the comic relief on the side than as the main course. It becomes clear just how important Seth Rogen was to that movie, and thus partly why The Green Hornet seems to achieve it’s genre-blending more effectively.
Still, while Your Highness is often uneven or unbalanced, it does manage to be creative, original, and fun. It is by no measure a great movie, but it’s much better than it might have been.
Worth It: sure, if you know what you’re getting into and like this sort of thing. It might help to actually be high while watching it (n.b.: I was not).
Bechdel Test: fail.