So while I try to learn how to edit like a amateur to make my first video for The Games Dump (It is being made, I promise. And it will not be worth the wait.) I decided I shouldn’t neglect the blog I actually have running. So I decided to get onto one of the films I’ve had ready to watch for a while now. The James Franco and Danny McBride starring Your Highness. Click the link for my review!
Your Highness can be lazily described as Pineapple Express meets The Princess Bride. Normally I’m against such labels but it’s oddly accurate here. Essentially Your Highness is a stoner comedy version of medieval fantasy films. The story follows the cowardly Thadeous (McBride) who has spent his life basically being a lazy stoner slob living in the shadow of his dashing and adventurous older brother Fabious (Franco). When the fabulous Fabious returns from a quest with a recently rescued damsel in distress named Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) Thadeous is asked to be Fabious’ best man at his wedding to said damsel. But evil is afoot at the wedding when the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux…. wait, really? Yup it’s him.) crashes the party and kidnaps Belladonna so he can make sweet love to her when the two moons align which will, of course, allow her to give birth to a dragon that Leezar can use to rule the kingdom. Obviously if Thadeous had bothered to show up for the wedding he would have taught Leezar a lesson or two and so, as punishment, Thadeous and his servant Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker) must journey with Fabious and his knights to rescue Belladonna and stop the fuckening from happening.
Also along the way they swear a lot and there’s naked chicks and a perverted Muppet wizard. It’s funny because they swear and and get stoned.
Sadly that’s pretty much the extent of the films humour. Almost every single gag, and they are gags not jokes, revolve around dick jokes and swearing. Now I love a bit of swearing but just swearing isn’t funny. Unless it’s small kids or Grandmas doing it. Otherwise it’s just swearing for the sake of it. Swearing can wear thin too so when Thadeous has responded to a negative event with his 50th “oh shit” the impact has kind of worn off. There is a few good moments of humour. The aforementioned perverted Muppet wizard almost manages to be a memorable moment which falls a little flat due to the fact all the humour in his scene relies on the characters being idiots. Courtney is the character that provides the majority of the chuckles and nearly manages to help give insight into the reasons Thadeous is the way he is in one scene. He’s essentially Baldrick to Danny McBride’s Blackadder. Except this is the series one cowardly and idiotic version of Blackadder that wasn’t as funny as the cunning and witty later Blackadders.
Along the way they meet a questing warrior, that I’m not entirely sure we were meant to be surprised was a woman in her reveal scene, called Isabel (Natalie Portman). She is also questing to defeat Leezar for the deaths of her whole family of knights who’s lineage is charged with stopping the exact plan Leezar has in mind. We’re told that questing warriors never discuss their quests with fellow warriors they meet on their travels in case their quests conflict. Obviously Thadeous tells Isabel but despite them having the same goal she steals a compass they need to find him with, which leads them to a town where Fabious is captured and she beats up Thadeous and only after all of that does she decide they should work together. Basically wasting about 10-15 minutes of the film. I hate it when films do this for no good reason. Sure she’s untrusting but she knows Fabious at least can fight and so working together would be a good idea. Basically it’s a purely idiotic piece of character nonsense. Sure Fabious needs to be taken out of the action for a while so Thadeous can learn to be a hero but did it require a pointless plot thread such as that. Couldn’t Thadeous have failed to save him and so set him on his path then?
The film is littered with stupid moments such as that but generally it does manage to move along from one set piece to another without feeling like there’s too much flab on the story’s bones. It’s not the smoothest of stories and the characters are certainly not as well fleshed out as they could have been but it manages to at least move along well enough to be entertaining. Shamefully Zooey Deschanel is literally just a damsel in distress, her one character trait of being completely lost in the real world after being held captive her whole life is used up in one scene early on and never really touched on again. She also sports a very unconvincing English accent.
James Franco is in his can’t be arsed to be good mode here pretty much seeming to play Fabious the dashing hero as a stoned hero. He says heroic things but his eyes and mannerisms come across more like they belong in another movie altogether. The problem with Franco is that sometimes he just seems to phone in his performances and not really take the time to figure out how his character should be portrayed. Sometimes he’s really good in a film such as Milk or 127 Hours, and sometimes he’s just awful.
I would criticise Danny McBride too but at least his character is meant to come across like a stoner. He’s just not playing a very well written character. Oddly enough he wrote the film. You’d think he would have made sure the main character, the one he was playing no less, had a better defined character path. For example, the quest requires that they head into a labyrinth to find a Unicorn horn sword which will be the only weapon capable of defeating Leezar. He arrives In a chamber and is told he can either prove his worth as a hero to keep the sword or be allowed to head through a portal back home. We don’t see what trial he must overcome though and so when he shows up a few minutes later with the sword we have no idea of how he suddenly became a hero. Sure he kills a distracted and slightly randy Minotaur in the scene where he returns with the sword but how was he allowed to leave the chamber in the first place?
I should make a point of saying that the design and production on this film is very good. The world itself has a varied series of locations which lead to a variety of set pieces. one in particular features a Thunderdome style gladiatorial arena that leads to the ruler of the Amazon women like tribe placing his hand into a cauldron which produces a giant five headed snake hand monster for our heroes to fight. Don’t see that every day. The effects work is solid and the set design is quite grand. When you consider that most comedies struggle to make massive amounts of money the fact a film on this scale can be made with a relatively large budget shows that there was at least some daring present. As far as being a fantasy film goes your Highness doesn’t really disappoint when it comes to creating its world.
So Your Highness is a nice idea with surprisingly good production values that falls flat because it fails to tell a cohesive story and present anything beyond the most basic and wafer thin attempts at humour. For a comedy to become a classic its humour needs to be good enough to not wear thin after one viewing. Your Highness manages to wear it’s entire joke repertoire thin in the first 30 minutes or so. Because it doesn’t have a particularly well written story it then begins to fall apart over the rest of it’s 100 minute runtime. It’s not the worst example of modern comedies (See Adam Sandler) going about but it is endemic of the sheer lack of quality comedies coming from Hollywood these days. All the best work seems to be on TV now, and not just in the comedy genre. This is something that needs to change before the term idiot box starts referring to our cinema screens as well.