Like a Minotaur, half of it is bull
By Stephanie Merry
Friday, April 8, 2011
Once upon a time in a faraway land called Hollywood, two men set out on a quest to subvert the fairy-tale genre with a hilarious spoof. Luckily their mission wasn’t life-or-death, because they were only half successful.
To be fair, Danny McBride and Ben Best’s script for “Your Highness” has its moments. The whole affair might be described as an amped-up version of “The Odyssey” for “Star Wars” fanboys and High Times subscribers. The story follows a king’s two very different sons: Fabious (James Franco) is the stereotypical dashing prince with a resplendent mullet and a yen for noble, death-defying quests, while Thadeous (McBride) is a chubby, lazy ne’er-do-well. Saddled with an inferiority complex, the latter prefers smoking the funny stuff and chasing sheep to slaying dragons. But when Fabious’s bride-to-be, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), is kidnapped by the evil, gerbil-toothed wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux), the king orders Thadeous to help his brother retrieve the damsel in distress.
Like director David Gordon Green’s uber-violent pot comedy “Pineapple Express,” “Your Highness” waffles between a lewd sendup and a blood-drenched action flick. The ensuing adventure involves a salacious Yoda-like muppet, vicious samurais, mud-covered female bandits (who are topless, of course) and a Minotaur as frightening as it is randy. To give the movie the tiniest iota of gravitas, recent Oscar winner Natalie Portman pops up as a ruthless, acrobatic she-warrior and the subject of Thadeous’s affection.
As silly as it all sounds, the violence is fairly graphic and announces its starring role promptly in the first scene when a man takes an arrow through the jugular.
While the chemistry between characters is impressive and the comic delivery spot-on, the jokes feel unoriginal. The juxtaposition of modern-day vulgarities and archaic language traditions (trading in modern possessive adjectives for “mine” and “thine,” for example) is amusing at first. By the time “Thy End” pops up on-screen, though, the quip isn’t even worth a polite chuckle. Homoerotic humor — reminiscent of that special friendship between Frodo and Sam in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy — seems pretty juvenile after the first attempt, let alone the seventh. To give credit where it’s due, Theroux garners some of the movie’s biggest laughs, playing the evil wizard as an inexperienced rube.
It’s an inspired choice and shows what the movie could have been had the writers opted for slightly less obvious humor. As it is, “Your Highness” might prove to be mindless fun for an audience with a high tolerance for depravity. But for those of you averse to carnage and bawdy jokes, hear ye: Spare thine eyes.
Contains nonstop vulgarities, drug use, bloody violence and nudity, including a full-frontal shot of a Minotaur.