In an ancient medieval kingdom of two moons, the glorious Prince Fabious (James Franco) returns from his latest quest, carrying a Cyclops head, with the rescued bride-to-be, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), by his side. His father, the king, orders a feast to celebrate the nuptials and all are joyous.
That is, except for the altogether second-rate Prince Thadeous (Danny McBride), who smokes pot with his manservant and spends the day interfering with the sheep.
Your Highness, which stars and was co-written by Danny McBride, has a semi-noble lineage. Two cast members are recent Oscar royalty: Franco (best actor nominee) and Natalie Portman (best actress winner). The film is directed by David Gordon Green, McBride's former film-school friend and the one-time critics' darling ( All the Real Girls, George Washington) who tossed away his fancy reputation when he made the Judd Apatow-produced stoner romp Pineapple Express.
By comparison to this effort, Pineapple Express seems like a model of thoughtful maturity. Your Highness is more of a rude splat, the kind of thing you might expect to star Jack Black ( Year One), with echoes of Ivan ( Ghostbusters) Reitman's nerd fantasies. In short, Your Highness consists of scenes weakly punched up by anachronistic obscenities, small-penis and gay jokes and slapstick fight scenes. There are English accents that come and go, and lots of flashing light effects, a Yoda-like wizard who's apparently a child molester. Basically, the script, from the title on down, feels like something sketched out on rolling papers.
In contrast, the special effects are incongruously elaborate: In one scene, a sneering, diaper-clad tribal chief operates a massive five-headed hydra with his hand. The monster's easily worthy of Clash of the Titans. The gorgeous mountainous Northern Irish backdrops rival Peter Jackson's New Zealand settings in The Lord of the Rings movies. The score by Steve Jablonsky ( Transformers) is appropriately overblown.
All the epic noise and scenery are on display during the quest at the centre of the story. Wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux) recaptures the virgin, Belladonna, planning to have sex with her during the lunar eclipse to produce a dragon. The king insists that Thadeous join Prince Fabious on the rescue mission, along with Thadeous's servant (Rasmus Hardiker), and they meet up with Portman's character, a warrior on an endless vengeance mission, who takes an occasional stop, for her fellow travellers to ogle her, while she bathes in a mountain stream.
Within the context of this Star Wars/ Wizard of Oz structure, the performances, in themselves, aren't bad. Theroux's over-the-top over-mothered wizard (he has three of them) is suitably absurd. Franco goofs around with his long-lashed bisexual appeal and Portman's violent pixie character has some edge. Only McBride's resentful bully tends to become overbearing, a lot of chest-puffing and posturing in a vacuum.
The movie's inanity feels half-deliberate, an attempt to recreate the introverted adolescent male mind that simultaneously revels in the fairy tales of medieval sword-and-sorcery fantasies as displaced frustrated sexual urges. But with actual laughs here as rare as medieval flush toilets, Your Highness exhausts the audience's patience. It wasn't called the Dull Ages, was it?
- Directed by David Gordon Green
- Written by Danny McBride and Ben Best
- Starring Danny McBride, James Franco and Natalie Portman
- Classification: 18A