Run-of-the-mill mystical medieval fantasy in many ways, and peppered heavily with modern vulgarities, Your Highness is disgustingly gross, and sexually crass. But, if you’re willing to go there with them; it’s one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in ages.
Danny McBride is the bumbling and foul-mouthed Prince Thadeous, brother to Prince Fabious (James Franco), the first-born and hero of the realm. When Fabius’ bride-to-be (Zooey Deschanel) is stolen by the evil sorcerer Leezar (Justin Theroux), it’s up to the brothers to ride out on a quest to win her back. Along the way they meet a mysterious woman (Natalie Portman) with a quest of her own.
The film looks and operates like a classic 1980’s fantasy adventure film, think Princess Bride for the most part with a few special effects thrown in. Your Highness doesn’t take itself too seriously, and works up quite a sweat trying to offend as many times in 102 minutes as it possibly can. Silly as the premise and setting seem, make no mistake, this is a movie for adults. Not young kids, not for the delicate, and probably not a first-date or movie to go see with your parents. And while it doesn’t quite fall into the easily dismissed stoner genre, there’s definitely plenty of drug use. It definitely works overtime for an R rating, the jokes spare almost no taboo: touching upon rape, incest, homosexuality, pedophilia and way beyond. Recommended for those with a strong constitution or people who have no souls.
Danny McBride handles his role with ease, making light of every situation and acting the fool in the best possible way, unable to take the quest or any of the royal duties seriously. James Franco is eternally serious as the first-born prince, and a delight to watch as always. The supporting characters in Your Highness are uniformly hilarious and charming, from Zooey Deschanel’s sweet maiden Belladonna, to the unexpectedly exceptional Rasmus Hardiker as the faithful sidekick Courtney. I had no idea he could be so hysterical, but Justin Theroux as the evil sorcerer Leezar had some of the funniest moments, and it’s all in the timing and subtlety of his delivery. Not everyone fares so well. Natalie Portman in recent years has been taking on such wildly different roles, and yet seems dedicated to remaining entirely herself throughout all of them, slightly sardonic and emotionally detached. Which works wonders in a movie like Black Swan, and while Your Highness is certainly not high-brow comedy, I expected a little more range from her as the feisty ass-kicker Isabel.
David Gordon Green is racking up quite the variety of directing credits and seems to have found joy in the buddy genre, first with Pineapple Express and now Your Highness. Having directed the Eastbound and Down series for television, he pairs again with Danny McBride and James Franco and it is definitely working for all three. The easy friendship and relaxed nature of the project definitely aided the performances, and I do wonder how much of the film was ad-libbed. Still, this from the man who directed the stunningly spare film George Washington? At first I was vaguely judgmental about it, but I really can’t fault the man at all. There’s something genuine and well-rounded about being able to direct both high-brow art house films and low-brow raunch-coms. After all, I like to see both kinds of movies, so why can’t David Gordon Green direct all kinds, or why can’t James Franco or Natalie Portman be in every kind of movie?
Putting aside all the trappings and naughty jokes and inappropriate moments, this movie is damn funny and fairly winsome. I haven’t laughed this much at a movie in years, and as corny as it sounds, Your Highness reminded me of how much fun movies could be. Thoroughly gross and entirely enjoyable.