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Your Highness Is An Awfully Lame Attempt at Comedy

Your Highness
Directed by David Gordon Green
Written by Danny McBride and Ben Best
Universal, 2011

Special-effects comedy rarely works.  The only movie that immediately comes to mind is Ghostbusters.  I’m not sure why this is, really, it would be fun to delve into this very small sub-genre of film and try to come up with a reason, but the first thing that comes to mind is that special effects are generally not funny; they contrast humor in such a way that the marriage doesn’t sit well.  It could also be that, simply, in the few examples we have, the movies were never going to be funny anyway.  But I do think that writing for a movie with tons of special effects tends to zap comic potential.  Here, the jokes are really lazy.

Director David Gordon Green reunites with his Pineapple Express co-stars Danny McBride and James Franco here.  Set in medieval times, Thadeous (McBride, also co-writer) is the black sheep in a royal family.  His brother Fabious (Franco) is the one who goes on quests and gets all the glory, and as the oldest he’s going to be king one day.  Fabious, freshly-home from conquering a cyclops, brings home his would-be bride Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) and plans to marry her as soon as possible.  At the wedding, a magician by the name of Leezar (Justin Theroux, probably the best thing about this) steals her away with plans to take her virginity on the evening of an eclipse.

Thadeous is instructed by his father the king (Charles Dance) that for once, he must go help his brother on his quest.  The quest involves a part one, finding a sword made of unicorn horn, and then two, finding the magician before he screws the girl, in a ceremony that is, in the possibly one good joke of the film, called “The Fuckening.”  Like all quests, there will be sidetracks with other, unforeseen dangers.  Another sidetrack is the warrior out for revenge, Isabel (Natalie Portman), whose ultimate goal is also killing Leezar, so they eventually team up after some complications.

The scenes set up for comedy here are elaborate set-ups for a ton of masturbation, sex, and drug jokes.  The movie at times seems to harken back to the old Jim Henson days of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, and the movie might have found some humor in parodying those, if only it could have gotten the “feel” of those films down and not been preoccupied with easy beat-off humor.  And when they set up a fairly lurid (and creative) scene involving a bunch of topless women ruled by a creepy fat weirdo who has people fight for sport, the potential humor from that situation is trumped by a special-effects extravaganza that while actually pretty cool, doesn’t belong here.

Danny McBride is a funny dude, but I think he’s best in small doses, and he might even be miscast as the black sheep here.  It might have been funnier seeing him in the more heroic James Franco role, mainly because his appearance and physique would run counter to the character.  Franco looks uncomfortable in this, being given no real humor to work with (he might have more laughs in his cameo in Green Hornet than he does in this entire movie).  The movie becomes instantly funnier if you just switch those roles.

Overall, a dismal experience with too many missed opportunities.

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