Pros: One of the funniest films in a long time with a lot of affection for 80's fantasy flicks
Cons: The opening animation over the beginning credits didnt really work
In the immortal words of Sidney Deane as played by Wesley Snipes in White Men Can’t Jump; ‘The sun even shines on a dogs ass some days…’. There I was minding my own business going to watch a man fire darts from his butthole and in 3D no less, when a kindly lady with a clipboard asks me if I wanted free tickets to a screening on Wednesday. Being the sort that never looks a gift horse in the mouth and seeing the title of said movie on the clipboard I said ‘of course my good lady, I will relieve you of the burden of your tickets’. My details were taken and I was all set to see Your Highness on Wednesday. You see this is the latest film from David Gordon Green, the arthouse director who turned his hand to comedy with Pineapple Express and stars Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel. I knew the premise and I couldn’t wait to see what they did with it.
The film begins with Prince Thadeus (McBride) in a dwarf village with his servant/sidekick Courtney, he has clearly upset the little people as he is about to be hanged. Due to a miscalculation about the length of the rope Thadeus and Courtney escape back to the kingdom where Thadeus’s brother Fabious (Franco) has returned from another successful quest after defeating the evil Leezar (Justin Theroux) and won the hand of his new bride to be Belladonna (Deschanel). The kingdom revels in Fabious’s success and once again the oafish Thadeus is pushed to the side, preferring instead to womanize and smoke wizard weed. At the happy couple’s wedding Leezar returns and kidnaps the virgin Belladonna with the intention of impregnating her with a dragon when the twin moons are aligned (or as Leezar politely refers to it ‘The Fuckening’). Fabious must once again go on a quest to rescue his beloved with his trusty band of knights. Thaddeus is given a choice; go on the quest with his brother and man up or get out of the kingdom. So Fabious and Thadeus set off on the quest where they will encounter a village of nude savage women, A wizard puppet who is also a possible pederast,huge mythical snake beasts, a horny minotaur and vengeful vixen Isabel (Portman). Thadeus must learn to be a hero, handle a sword and woo the fiery Isabel who is on a quest of her own.
Your Highness could have so easily become just another spoof along the lines of Epic Movie or Meet the Spartans but surprisingly just as the action was treated seriously in Pineapple Express, the fantasy elements here are just as important as the comedy. The special effects and production design are very impressive and the film certainly looks epic using the country of Ireland as its backdrop. There are evil witches firing lightning all over the place, there are mechanical beasts right out of the original Clash of the Titans and there is a weird hand/pit/monster thing that is cool as hell. Its also mega gory, limbs are hacked off and there is plenty of blood. Of course there is silly humor, very silly. If you didn’t get Green’s last comedy you may struggle here although Your Highness is probably the better film. This could well be the film that breaks Danny McBride into super stardom as he is the main star here. He delivers his lines in a pretty flawless English accent and the character is a classic spoiled loser who must learn to be a man. Just wait until you see the scene where he takes a trophy from a kill, its hilarious and gross. James Franco is being himself but also gets plenty of laughs jabbing away at the image of the handsome prince who writes poetry while also being handy with a sword. Portman is her usual brilliant self and for all her male fans there is a bathing scene that will get your temperature up. The main cast are supported by some more traditional thespian types. Toby Jones plays a creepy town crier type, Charles Dance is the king, Damian Lewis plays a treacherous knight and Justin Theroux nearly steals the whole thing as Leezar. Previously best known for smaller roles in David Lynch films and writing Tropic Thunder, Theroux is a comic revelation here delivering many of the films best lines with prosthetic teeth and a hideous wig. I laughed a lot and loudly and so did the packed audience. The script is written by McBride with his frequent collaborator Ben Best and clearly they have a lot of affection for the 1980’s fantasy movies they (and I) grew up with. Films like Krull, Clash of The Titans, Hawk the Slayer, Willow, Conan and Beastmaster are all wonderfully homaged and never poked fun at. It really could have died on its ass for being so ambitious but in the hands of a craftsman like David Gordon Green it works wonders.
If there is one complaint its that the credits sequence at the beginning doesn’t really work, it is wonderfully animated and fills a gap in the story but the dialogue was pretty inaudible throughout but this may just be because the sound mix has yet to be finalized. So when can you see this? Its currently due out next April but could be a tricky one to market, in a year where geek centric films like Scott Pilgrim have not fared well,a comedic fantasy that homage's nerd greats like the ones mentioned above could be something that Universal are not keen to throw their weight behind. I wouldn’t be surprised if after the Oscars and if Natalie Portman and James Franco have success (for Black Swan and 127 Hours respectively) then they become the focus of the marketing campaign. Even if it fails at the box office though its destined for some cult love on DVD. So you heard it here first, Your Highness is THE comedy of 2011!