Your Highness

your-highness-2

C-

Sunday night was the perfect night for a spring BBQ; the breeze was warm, the crickets lively and the three-foot snow drifts of March were becoming a distant memory. I had two choices: sit on the porch with a cool beer and roast some chicken on the grill, or trek over to the multiplex for Your Highness. Hold your breath no longer, this isn’t a review of my BBQ chicken cooking skills, but by the end you might wish it was.

I really love David Gordon Green’s work. All The Real Girls is a sublimely crafted film with delicate nuance and discretion. I can’t imagine it done any better. Undertow and George Washington had equal impact on me. I was a little apprehensive when I saw that he was doing a comedy — Pineapple Express — but he was able to elevate a simple, stoner buddy picture into something with a more refined sense of cinematic texture. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no Deerhunter, but it’s better than you’d think a movie like that could be. You see where I am going, my expectations for Your Highness were fairly…high.

The trailers do a good job of reporting the details. Two princely brothers, Fabious (James Franco) and Thadeous (Danny McBride), from a magical land of two moons must journey on a quest to rescue the kidnapped bride-to-be, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) from an evil wizard (Justin Theroux). Fabious, as the name implies, is the beloved prince of the kingdom: strong, handsome and courageous. Thadeous, on the other hand, is less of all those things by a considerable amount. He’s a stoned, womanizing ogler with a weighty paunch and a permed pompadour mullet.

Your Highness wants you to take this questing business very seriously. The effects and creature makeup are tremendous, and the action is all shot very well. You’d think that you can just add a few jokes here and there, and you might have a pretty successful and fun romp through nostalgia-ville circa 1985.

While I may agree with that in theory, the problem arises when the jokes seem to have been written by a fourth-grader — a very dirty fourth-grader who probably wasn’t raised very well. A few F-bombs sporadically inserted amongst the formal old english-ian dialect will get a chuckle, but it invariably wares thin after this first five or six hundred times.

You have to try much harder to make us laugh than dropping curse words, having Natalie Portman talk about her “beaver” and having James Franco fondle a pot-smoking, jellyfish-headed wise wizard…whom happens to be a pedophile. Har Har.

It’s difficult to take the quest and action seriously when the jokes are missing their mark. As a subsequent result, our characters don’t come off as lovable goofs, as in Pineapple Express. Here they’re just clumsy, naïve dunces who you’d almost rather see fail than complete their quest.

I did laugh occasionally. There are spurts of creativity and humor here, but they are so easily overlooked when other jokes go for a cheap laugh, such as, “Would you like to be gay with father and I?” Really? We’re going there? Using the happy definition of gay as a sexual innuendo? That’s not even fourth grade humor — it’s somewhere much lower. It’s almost unforgivable.

Danny McBride and David Gordon Green used to play a game back in college — one of them would make up the name of a movie and the other would have to create an imaginary plot for the title. One day Danny said, “Your Highness.” They laughed and the basic outline for this movie was born. 15 years later and with a stash of good credit from past successes, they got to make their movie. I get the feeling that when it came down to putting pen to paper, they were scratching their heads pretty hard trying to figure out a way to fill this movie out. And in the end, you’re left with mostly fluff, some bad jokes and some really cool looking creatures.

tags: danny mcbride, david gordon green, james franco, natalie portman, your highness

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