movie review: Your Highness

In theory, I suppose it would be funny—and incongruous—if in the middle of a serious costume drama a noble action hero uttered a four-letter word. Hearing Danny McBride do just that, repeatedly, in Your Highness not only isn’t funny but grows wearisome as the film plods along, seemingly unaware that it’s played all of its cards.

McBride has become a familiar face in recent years, contributing amusing moments to such comedies as Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder. But the appeal of the movie he starred in and created with writing partner Jody Hill, The Foot Fist Way, eluded me completely, and I thought Hill’s debut feature, Observe and Report, was ghastly. (I haven’t seen McBride’s HBO series, Eastbound & Down, so I can’t comment on that.)

Still, nothing could have prepared me for the unspeakable mess that is Your Highness, written by McBride and Ben Best. I saw it with an audience of several hundred people, only a few of whom—

—found occasion to laugh now and then. Even they couldn’t muster a chuckle for many of the film’s most puerile and repetitive jokes.

McBride joins an ever-growing roster of childlike men who are putting their most juvenile goof-off ideas on the big screen. Apparently, he and director David Gordon Green cooked up this idea as a lark when they were in film school. In the ranks of movie parody, Mel Brooks and even Jim Abrahams have nothing to fear from these newcomers. The people who cut the trailer have a much better sense of comedy timing than the actual filmmakers, who allow so many of their gags to land with a thud. I feel sorry for people who will be suckered into paying to see Your Highness based on that preview.As for moviemaking craft, there is almost none in evidence. McBride’s introductory scene is built around a sight-gag that falls completely flat. Later action and chase scenes are shot, staged, and edited so poorly that you can’t really see what’s going on! You can certainly hear the bombastic music score, however: it’s very, very loud.

James Franco plays the hero and gives it his best shot, never winking at the audience. Zooey Deschanel is his virginal fiancée, who is kidnaped by an evil wizard. As Franco and McBride take off on their quest to save her, they encounter a fearless female warrior, played completely straight by Natalie Portman. (Note to voyeurs: if you’re going to see the movie just to ogle Portman in a thong bikini, you’ve already seen all you’re going to see in the trailers and TV spots.)

Perhaps alcohol would make this film seem funnier. I saw it sober and found it almost unendurable.

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May 2024