Review: ‘Your Highness’

An R-rated anachronistic romp in the vein of The Princess Bride and Monty Python and The Holy Grail that’s both truly awful and truly entertaining.

In a mythical land of two moons and dire prophecies, Prince Fabious (James Franco) completes valiant quests and is the pride and joy of his father, King Tallious (Charles Dance.) Fabious’ brother, Prince Thadeous (Danny McBride) is a lazy do-nothing that prefers to spend his time with women and weed when not ordering about his squire, Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker.) When Fabious attempts to marry Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), a woman he rescued from a dark wizard’s tower prison, the wizard himself, Leezar (Justin Theroux), appears to reclaim his prize and reveals his intentions for her before disappearing with her. Because Thadeous missed the wedding and subsequent kidnapping, the king orders him to accompany his brother and the Knights Elite to rescue the girl and destroy the wizard… or be banished from the kingdom forever.

From the makers of Pineapple Express, Your Highness is a drug-induced sword and sorcery flick that’s easy on the eyes but hard on the brain. The plot is just serious enough to hold the story together while taking every possible detour to something silly along the way. Unlike the recent glut of hit-and-mostly-miss spoofs that include Meet the Spartans and Superhero Movie, this film manages to actually show a little imagination throughout. It’s almost as if someone thought out an actual fantasy quest movie before turning it over to someone else to insert the laughs. It shouldn’t work at all, but it does, assuming your expectations weren’t terribly high to begin with. For those thinking that this will somehow set back the validity of actually fantasy film work such as The Lord of the Rings, fear not; while the film borrows concepts from other films (check out the mechanical blue bird), it’s completely its own creature and never assumes to be anything else other than what it is.

Naked breasts, severed members, and plenty of words you still can’t say on television ride an “R” rating as far as you can take it and still get into theaters. Like someone bringing pot brownies to a Dungeons and Dragons game, things go off the rails repeatedly just before being jerked back to some semblance of a narrative (maybe the director is a secretly a really good Dungeon Master to hold all this together.) McBride and Franco play off each other like old buddies, but you can’t help wondering how much laughing was going on between scenes (the outtakes should be interesting, to say the least.) Zooey Deschanel’s brief appearances as the sheltered yet upbeat virgin bride is nailed by the actress who repeatedly endures being shackled and manhandled by the villain. Recent Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman also gets in on the crass guy talk and double entendres; she manages to look like she’s having fun (and look amazing as a warrior woman) while upstaging everyone else at the same time.

It’s funny, it’s awful, and somehow it works, but just enough to let it pass. What may have saved Your Highness from becoming the next Meet the Spartans is its originality: a unicorn-horned sword, for example, or a monster created by sticking your hand into a cauldron to cause its manifestation. Also credit Ms. Portman’s appearance in the second half of the film to kick the movie into high gear at just the right moment. There are plenty of cringe-worthy scenes, but there are plenty more that even the red band trailer couldn’t have shown, and those are the scenes that will have you and anyone else who’s seen it talking about the film long after “Thy Ending.”

(a two and a half skull recommendation out of four)

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