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Entries in Your Highness [2011] (1)

Sunday
Jan082012

Your Highness (2011)

Stoned to Death

2011 was a bad movie year for narcoleptics. I couldn't stay awake for all of Bad Teacher, and I nodded off a lot during David Gordon Green's tights-and-tits epic, Your Highness. I'm not a stoner, but I like to think I saw both films in the best possible mindset: exhausted and completely susceptible to nonsense. My failure to gain a foothold of laughter or interest did nothing to affect my ability to review them--which, I think, says more about the movies than my professionalism.

I could be wrong.

Your Highness stars Danny McBrideas Thadeous, the weed-smoking, screw-up brother of dashing Prince Fabious (James Franco). On returning from a perilous quest in which he'd beheaded a cyclops and rescued a maiden from imprisonment in a tower, Fabious is celebrated by King Tallious (Charles Dance)--leaving Thadeous to stew in the shadows with his servant, Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker).

During Fabious' wedding to the lovely but socially inept Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux) materializes and trashes the royal hall. He makes off with the bride-to-be, leaving Fabious with a new quest and Thadeous with a chance to prove himself a noble warrior.

What follows is a low-rent Lord of the Rings: a hodgepodge of rough-and-tumble fighters, idiots, and innocents travels over the river and through the woods to get to the Big Bad's fortress. There are betrayals and monsters, a magical compass and a mysterious traveler who's handy with a bow and arrow (Natalie "History's Luckiest Oscar Winner" Portman).

The only thing separating Your Highness from every other modern fantasy epic is Green and co-writer Ben Best's use of anachronistic humor and dialogue. For every "thee" and "thou", there are at least two "motherfuckers". Every bizarre creature the band encounters is merely an excuse to invest in a crude sight gag (Thadeous wears the massive penis of a slain minotaur as a necklace; the brothers seek advice from a hookah-smoking mutant oracle who only accepts hand-jobs as payment).

I love dirty jokes. Can't get enough of 'em. But movies and stand-up comedy (and even TV shows now) are so packed with bawdy humor that it takes more than just a premise to make me laugh. I need wit and imagination. A dick necklace might be cute the first time you see it, but Green keeps cutting back to it as if to say, "Remember when you chuckled at this twenty minutes ago? Keep smirking, kids; we're still working on the next joke." Your Highness is the perfect example of a film whose funniest moments really are in the trailer. And depending on your reaction to that trailer, you may want to avoid the full-length feature altogether.

Best and Green's fatal mistake is investing too much dialogue and character development in what should simply be the skeleton of a farce. At nearly two hours, Your Highness seems to think it's a legit fantasy film with some comedic elements, rather than a parody of fantasy films. Can you imagine Airplane! as written and directed by the team that brought us the Transformers movies?

I get the feeling the filmmakers had a lot riding on the fact that their picture features great character actors doing silly things,* rather than doing the hard work of having them do funny things. They also walk the fine line of asking us to believe that McBride's English accent being so spotty is a comedic choice, rather than the shortcomings of a guy who's a second-string supporting player at best.

You may think I'm unqualified to review a film that I missed about three total minutes of, but I stand by my assessment. The screenplay plodded along with cliche after cliche, assuring my weary brain that tuning out was not only a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but a matter of self-preservation. Had I been fully alert during this movie, I probably would've been angrier at it than I am.

Sure, I could be furious that so many talented people sloughed off so many millions of dollars on an entertainment-free vanity project (cue flashbacks to Ocean's Twelve), but that would require much more spiritual energy than Your Highness deserves. I'd rather move on to the next movie and forget this bad, bad dream.

*Toby Jones as a naked eunuch is, from what I've seen, a career low.