Starring: James Franco, Natalie Portman, Danny McBride, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Theroux, Charles Dance, Toby Jones, Brian Steele
Director: David Gordon Green
Writer: Danny McBride, Ben Best
Cinematography: Tim Orr
Original Score: Steve Jablonsky
Running Time: 102 Mins.
Danny McBride, David Gordon Green and James Franco last brought us the lacklustre stoner comedy Pineapple Express, a film I felt you must have to be under the influence to find funny as it simply observed how much fun people seemingly have when stoned. Not my idea of a good film thank you very much, and also something which displayed very little skill in the acting, directing or writing department, so given the three have got together again to bring us a medieval romp called Your Highness I was far from excited, expecting much the same again albeit set against a castle, heaving bosom and chain-mail backdrop.
How wrong I was upon watching the trailer, promising the years funniest comedy and largely doing away with stoner jokes (despite the title), it looked to emulate Monty Python and the Holy Grail and on the slightly more serious side Willow, The Princess Bride and its ilk. I have however grown to realise trailers that are the best all too often herald some huge disappointments (Sucker Punch and Wolverine being two such examples) and comedies are well-known for cramming thar funniest bits into the ads. So what does the actual experience of Your Highness bring? Well it proves some things are funnier in short sharp bursts but also avoids swathes of stoner jokes in favour of lots of inappropriate swearing and lots and lots of very crude moments.
This works both in the films favour and, well…not. Because as funny as men slipping “fuck”, “cock” or “bastard” in amongst “ye olde speak” is intermittently it reaches half an hour into the film and the random swearing seems to mask any promise for actual jokes, it doesn’t become annoying thankfully but does dim the effect and raises less of a smile on each obscenity. Something that doesn’t diminish as the film progresses is the great casting, seeing McBride and Franco farcing it up is nothing out of the ordinary but here they really are playing to their strengths and make a great double act (one of the few things Pineapple Express did manage to succeed in doing), but it is in those we are more accustomed to seeing in serious (slightly more serious anyway) roles, Deschanel, Dance, Jones and in particular Theroux as villain Lazar all have their time to shine in the stupidest ways, they are this era’s Pythons!
Sadly one person who never really fits in is Portman, she tries but seems as if she wondered in off the Black Swan set and isn’t quite sure what tone she is aiming for, I’d say she is the “straight-man” but has too many intentionally funny scenes that are thoroughly unfunny. This though is the only real glaring weak link, the tone is jokey of course though there are real affectionate nods to the films it is sending up, creature design is fantastic with a hydra as good as anything else CGI you will see in a blockbuster this summer but it is in the puppetry that Jim Henson would be proud of his influence bearing such funny and innovative fruit. A pervy wizard and a minotaur are the stand-outs and the balance of the set pieces they have alongside the laughs is judged just right.
Maybe though it as all a little too “free”, lines are clearly ad-libbed which is as much a success as it is a failure and the quest narrative does seem a little slight, also as funny as the support cast are it seems a little too crammed…as do the references with a mechanical bird a step too far (Clash of the Titans-esque) and very much pointless, it serves to neither further the plot of be particularly funny, in fact if the pacing were tightened up a tad and some of the lazy jokes shaved off this could have been a cult classic to sit alongside the likes of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Your Highness thankfully belies its title and is not simply anther stoner comedy, instead it pokes fun at the premise and genre of medieval quest films well and harks back to the 80’s in a tone that balances nostalgia with more contemporary laughs (if far from being sophisticated!). Effects work is stellar for a comedy but the occasional flabbiness stops it short of being truly great, so a fun romp then if not likely to be the years funniest comedy sadly.