Medieval Mess

'Your Highness' is a surprising failure, given the great cast and director

There was no movie I was looking more forward to this month than Your Highness.

David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) directs James Franco, Natalie Portman, Justin Theroux and Danny McBride in a foul-mouthed, medieval-times period piece? And McBride co-wrote the script? Sign me up!

So it's with great sadness that I tell you that, while it isn't altogether terrible, Your Highness will probably qualify as one of the biggest disappointments of 2011.

Green and company totally miss the mark. I'm thinking they were shooting for a Monty Python-esque period piece, where you make an authentic-looking film about King Arthur or the Roman Empire, and then sprinkle it with dirty words and slapstick.

While the Pythons were able to do this sort of thing with relative ease—because they were so damn intelligent—Green and his cast are only sporadically funny; it's like they're dirty-minded Hollywood actors at a decent-looking costume party. The Pythons could get away with a dick joke because it seemed a little beneath them. Danny McBride seems to be only telling dick jokes, and they're getting tiresome.

Things start promisingly, with Thadeous (McBride), youngest son of King Tallious (Charles Dance), about to hang for screwing around with a dwarf's wife. After a sort-of-funny sight gag, Thadeous retreats to his castle, just in time for the triumphant return of his older brother, Fabious (Franco), who has found a new bride-to-be in Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel).

On their wedding day, the evil wizard Leezar (a very funny Justin Theroux) crashes the party and kidnaps Belladonna for an evil ceremony called The Fuckening (a funny wink to Highlander). Fabious goes on a quest to save Belladonna, and, of course, Thadeous is brought along for the ride.

One of the problems is that the movie is a little too much like Excalibur and Krull. Those films were dull as all hell, and so is Your Highness. The cast is never really allowed to be full-bore funny. It's like they are stuck in neutral.

McBride, so funny in Pineapple Express, here wrote himself a one-note character with very little finesse. His big joke is wearing the severed cock of a minotaur around his neck as a trophy. Perhaps there are directors and actors somewhere who could make that sort of thing hilarious. In Your Highness, it's just lame and gross.

Portman shows up deep into the film as a bow-and-arrow-shooting beauty. She's good, although she is given little to do. Her big moment involves her stripping for a daytime swim, which is, perhaps, the highlight of the movie.

Franco is just fine as the movie's Prince Charming; he gets more laughs than McBride, even though he's playing the straight man.

Theroux, wearing a goofy wig and bad teeth, has the film's best moments. Whether he is explaining why women should want him, or failing to deliver the goods during the Fuckening, he seems to be the only performer who knows how to be consistently funny.

Green is a great director. Beyond Pineapple Express, he's put forth good dramas like All the Real Girls (with Deschanel and McBride), George Washington and Snow Angels. This is his first true stinker. While one might figure that he would return to his dramatic roots after this, his next film looks to be The Sitter, a comedy co-starring Sam Rockwell and Jonah Hill.

It's depressing to see such a pool of talent failing under the tutelage of a normally great auteur. Your Highness makes me sad ... very, very sad.

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