“Your Highness” doesn’t have to be a smart comedy, but a little effort is always appreciated. A feast for the eyes, the picture doesn’t have much of a funny bone, electing to stage puerile stoner humor as a way to fully pants the sword and sorcery genre.
The objective is clear as day, but that doesn’t make this parade of obscenities and sex jokes any funnier. And to think, director David Gordon Green was once a major force for independent cinema. Now he’s overseeing the fine details of a rubber Minotaur penis. Hooray for Hollywood.
Deep inside a peaceful kingdom, two brothers couldn’t be more different, with Fabious (James Franco) a handsome, heroic prince, and Thadeous (Danny McBride) a lazy slob. On his wedding day, Fabious finds his bride, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel, here with nothing much to do), stolen by the powerful warlock Leezar (Justin Theroux), who takes his prize to his castle, looking to impregnate her and fulfill a wicked prophecy.
Setting off to save her, Fabious drags along his reluctant brother, hoping the quest will bond them in honor. Soon joined by warrior Isabel (Natalie Portman), the gang encounters a series of fantastical creatures, vicious enemies, and devastating betrayals, with Thadeous struggling to find his bravery when he’d rather kick back with his servant Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker) and smoke weed.
“Your Highness” is a deceptive film, with Green finding a kooky contrast between a large-scale epic filled with expansive fantasylands and an excursion into juvenile humor, with dialogue deploying cursing and sexually charged yuks to shock viewers into submission. It’s all incredibly goofball and playful, but the lack of creativity here is astonishing, with the script (written by McBride and Ben Best) simply presenting the mere act of swearing as a punchline.
The anachronistic pinches are easily decoded, but offer no laughs, highlighting an enormous laziness in the writing department, while the visual elements of the picture couldn’t be stronger. “Your Highness” is so unfunny, it feels like a prank. How could a plot like this, with a cast of reasonable comics, feel so utterly deprived of oxygen?
Thankfully, there’s plenty of eye candy to prize while conversations head into pee-pee, poo-poo town. Envisioning a world of mazes, monsters, and magic, Green takes the challenge seriously, building a sort of homage to Jim Henson, “Dungeons & Dragons,” and “Clash of the Titans” (Fabious has a robot bird as a companion), assembling an awesome display of castles and woodlands, where the troupe encounters a series of beasts and enchanted creatures, including one aside that has Fabious and Isabel fighting a vicious hydra born from the hand of a tribal leader, who uses a mustardy goo to control his finger-demon.
There’s also a caravan chase that’s captured with sweeping camerawork, focusing on rough, invigorating stuntwork that creates genuine adventure excitement. A lot of effort went into designing “Your Highness,” and the artistry is absolutely impressive, capturing a lush widescreen realm. Too bad Gordon and McBride couldn’t find more to do with it.
Aimed at stoners, I’m sure “Your Highness” will find a receptive audience eager to dig into the constant references to sex, smoke, and gay panic. It’s the type of film that spends thousands of dollars building an elaborate puppet to embody a magical character, only to have the creature smoke weed and request a hand job before the scene is through.
It’s the type of film that finds a severed Minotaur penis and the F-word hilarious. Sadly, it’s a comatose sense of humor that’s grueling to endure, wasted on marvelous screen creativity that deserved far more than this tedious menagerie of immaturity.