According to Wikipedia, the wrap party for Your Highness was held in Belfast at the Harland & Wolff Shipyard. Harland & Wolff, as you may know, oversaw the construction of the Titanic – and wouldn’t you know it, the wrap party took place in a part of the Shipyard known as the Titanic Quarter. Did director David Gordon Green forget what happened to the Titanic? There are some omens you just can’t ignore. Like the Bubonic Plague, Your Highness is a pestilence upon this land. Here is a movie so monumentally unfunny that its distinction as a comedy is insulting; it’s an unrewarding excursion into the depths of immaturity, where swearing and fornication gags exhaust 95% of the screenplay. The remaining percentage is devoted to a plot that’s neither understandable nor interesting. And pot jokes. You can’t forget the pot jokes.
Set during medieval times, it stars Danny McBride (also one of the writers) and James Franco as brothers Thadeous and Fabious, the sons of King Tallious (Charles Dance). Fabious, despite being cursed with a ridiculous name, is a dashing and brave warrior, and is the pride of his father’s kingdom. Thadeous, on the other hand, is a cowardly slacker and an embarrassment. Fabious returns from his latest quest with a war trophy – the severed head of a Cyclops – and a fiancée, a virgin named Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel). On the day of their wedding, Belladonna is kidnapped by the evil sorcerer Leezar (Justin Theroux), who he intends to impregnate in a twisted scheme to take control of Tallious’ kingdom. The child will apparently be a dragon. I don’t care to dwell on the logistics of such a pregnancy.
It is now Fabious’ quest to rescue his true love, who sits imprisoned at the top of a dark tower. He enlists Thadeous, Thadeous’ squire, Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker), and a band of knights. Their first stop is the lair of the Great Wise Wizard, a bizarre-looking purple puppet, who gives them a magical compass. The sole purpose of including this character, whatever the hell it is, had less to do with plot advancement and more to do with working in several awkward jokes about marijuana and molestation, the latter of which is apparently funny in the eyes of McBride and his co-writer Ben Best. On the basis of the Belladonna character, so too is rape. I’m surprised neither one of them thought to go all out and work in jokes about the Holocaust. Oh, how the audience would have howled with laughter!
As Fabious and Thadeous continue their journey, they encounter Isabel (Natalie Portman), a beautiful and skilled warrior. She’s on her own quest to avenge the deaths of her father and brothers – and she needs the compass hanging around Thadeous’ neck. When she and Thadeous finally join forces, they enter a labyrinth and seek a magical sword with a unicorn horn for a handle. The scene culminates with a battle between our heroes and a Minotaur; Thadeous cannot claim one of its horns as a war trophy, so he instead opts for its penis, which he attaches on a string and proudly wears as a necklace. I’m desperately wracking my brain for a reason as to why this is funny. So far, nothing. I’m also at a loss to explain why it was deemed necessary for every line to contain at least one instance of the F-word. I’m not a prude with an aversion to swear words, but when the filmmakers are essentially beating you over the head with them, it kind of stop being amusing.
It’s hard to imagine a movie this bad costing in excess of $50 million. Alas, the film is in part a display of visual effects – mostly lightning bolts and force fields that emanate from Leezar’s magical hands. Or maybe they came from his cane. I honestly don’t remember. With that much money invested in CGI, you’d think someone somewhere would have made more of an effort to make them look convincing. When I say “convincing,” I mean relative to, say, a video game, which typically doesn’t require the best graphics in order to be effective. The special effects in this movie look like digital explosions copied from a video game and pasted into a frame of live action.
I haven’t even gotten to the acting yet. Acting? Is that the word I should be using? The only halfway engaging performance is given by Portman, and even then there’s no accounting for the clichéd nature of her character. I’ll give her this much: Her British accent is hardly flawless, but it’s a far cry from what she delivered in Star Wars: Episode I. Lord knows twelve years is enough time to work on it. Franco has been good if not great in other films, including Milk, 127 Hours, and even Spider-Man; here, he proves he’s just as bad at medieval comedies as he is at hosting the Oscars. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve seen a more joyless performance all year. McBride is just plain goofy, but then again, I expected nothing less. Your Highness is a waste of talent, money, and celluloid – it deserves to be drawn and quartered.
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