Film school chums, writer/director David Gordon Green and writer/actor Danny McBride, knocked their heads together to produce “Your Highness;” a fantasy-adventure stoner comedy, elevating the term “high concept” to a whole new level.
Danny McBride is the not-so-valiant Prince Thadeous whose father (Charles Dance) decides he must prove his worth by going on a great quest. Luckily for him, his king-to-be brother Fabious (James Franco), has a girlfriend, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), who is abducted by the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux). Leezar needs to defile a virgin when the twin moons meet to impregnate her with a dragon that he can then use to rule the world.
The bad news is it’s not nearly as funny as Green’s last film, “Pineapple Express.” But “Your Highness” is a more exciting film, where the action sequences end up being more impressive than much of the comedy. There’s swearing like sailors, blood and guts, elaborate chase sequences, swords and sandals, a fight with a Hydra, and, best of all, gratuitous cleavage.
The mixture of CGI, practical effects, dynamic cinematography courtesy of Tim Orr and low-cut blouses are visually satisfying. It tries to evoke the trashy but engrossing spectacle of pulp novels with covers by Frank Frazetta, succeeding in leaps and bounds.
The film just barely qualifies as a stoner comedy. Sure, people smoke pot frequently in the movie, but actors seem to be too busy making jokes about being hung by dwarves or molested by weird frog-magicians to make jokes about being stoned. It seems suspiciously as if “stoner action fantasy” was the original idea, but somewhere along the line most of the “stoner” ended up on the cutting room floor.
That’s not even really a bad thing because many so-called “stoner comedies” consistently fail to deliver on the whole “stoner” angle. But “Your Highness” still has its share of flaws. For instance, the title isn’t the only cringe-inducing joke the audience is in for. The viewers might assume a comedy that fondly and self-reflexively explores the fantasy-adventure genre would actually have jokes about fantasy-adventure films. Instead, the audience gets a number of people dressed like they’re from Narnia dropping F-bombs.
As funny as it is to hear McBride grunting four-letter words in context, the swearing is overused. The only material at the disposal of the cast members — who all manage to do well with their individual performances without any particularly inspired stand-outs — goes too over-the-top in vulgarity.
“Your Highness” is a bit more akin to dark, supernatural fantasy-comedies like “Army of Darkness,” and it seems like it may be destined for similar but less deserved cult success. The jokes are fine, but the action is better. That, coupled with the film’s dry delivery, is what makes the movie so much more accessible to a very specific niche.
“Your Highness” was written by Danny McBride and Ben Best and directed by David Gordon Green.
2.5 out of 4 stars