Title: Your Highness (2010)
Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Danny Mc Bride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Justin Theroux
I had high hopes for Your Highness for various reasons. One of them was that David Gordon Green was directing. Green is a director who’s mainly known for directing indie dramas like George Washington (2000) and Undertow (2004). But in 2008 David Gordon Green decided to break out of his indie drama mold and ventured into big budget commercial comedy territory, the result was Pineapple Express. A film that ended up being a good stoner comedy in my book. So I kept that in mind, also noting the fact that Your Highness was a Pineapple Express re-union of sorts. It had the same director (David Gordon Green) and it reunited James Franco and Danny McBride both of which had worked together on Pineapple Express. So I was feeling confident about this movie. Add to that the fact that it now had Oscar winner Natalie Portman along for the ride and I was sold! And it was a stoner comedy! And it had magic and monsters! And Justin Theroux was playing the bad guy! I mean, this movie had all the makings of an awesome movie! So why did this film end up being such an atrociously unfunny disaster?
The sad part is that Your Highness is Danny McBride’s first attempt at carrying a big budget theatrical release on his shoulders. He is the lead, it’s his movie. He wrote it. Should this film fly or get shot down, all fingers will point to him. That type of thing tends to be a decisive moment in an up and coming actors career. This type of thing can either make or break your future in Hollywood. It reminded me of the time I first saw Ace Ventura in theaters, way back in 1994. That moment was magical; I have never seen an audience laugh so hard in my whole life as a film enthusiast. From then on, I knew Jim Carrey was going to make it big. And he did, it was one of those things where the film was so funny, that you just knew he was going to make it. Sadly, Your Highness was to be Danny McBride’s Ace Ventura. This was to be the film where McBride was going to show the world that he is a funny guy, and that he can continue making us laugh for years to come. Sadly, if I was to judge Danny McBride’s future in films based on Your Highness alone, I would have to say that he is dead on arrival. It’s a sad thing too because Danny McBride is one of those actors that always got second billing in comedies where he was funny enough for people to say “this guy is funny, he should be making his own movies!” Well, he finally got his chance to prove himself to audiences in a film where he is the main star. He’s been given the keys to the kingdom; did he make the best of it? Hell no he didn’t!
The main problem with Your Highness is that it just isn’t funny. I watched it in a theater filled with people who like me, decided to give it a chance, probably expecting McBride to be as funny as he has been in other movies where he wasn’t the main star. At the very least, he should have been as funny as he is in his own show, Eastbound & Down. Unfortunately, this was not the case. I giggled once or twice, but most of the time I was cringing at what I was seeing on screen. I remember the words “this is not funny” popping up in my head on various occasions. McBride and crew seem to think that saying the word fuck every five seconds is a funny thing. It isn’t. Curse words are to be used sparingly, like a bit of salt on your favorite food. If you over do it, you mess things up. Then it just becomes irritating every time you hear it. Maybe on a Gangster movie it would have been okay, cause Im sure gangsters say “motherfucker” every five seconds; but not on a fantasy film. And trust me; you’ll hear the word fuck and all of its derivatives every five seconds in this movie. On top of that, they chose to include these really crude sexual jokes, like having to give a hand job to a wizard so he can help them on their quest, or showing a Minotaur’s erection, I mean, literally, you can see the Minotaur’s erect member. I just typed that. Great. Thank you very much Your Highness.
And here’s the other thing, I love fantasy movies! I love movies about magic, monsters, dragons, swords and all that jazz. I was actually looking forward to seeing warlocks and wizards using their magic powers. I was thinking this was a great opportunity to spoof films like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. And yes, I did enjoy those moments where we have warlocks and witches using all these fantastical magic powers, showcasing some nifty special effects. I enjoyed all the creatures we get to meet in the film, the Cyclops, the Minotaur, The Wizard. You kind of get the feeling that McBride watched Princess Bride (1987), Labyrinth (1986), Legend (1985), Robin Hood Men in Tights (1993), History of the World Part I (1981) and Monty Python’s Holy Grail (1975) and wanted elements from all those films on this one. I have to hand it to the guy, he had his influences in the right place. Unfortunately, he didn’t quite get there. I mean, this was a 60 million dollar big budget production. These guys had all the resources needed to make a decent fantasy film; unfortunately, the result wasn’t a very good one. That’s one thing I always enjoyed about Mel Brook’s films, they were raunchy, and had sexual jokes in them, but they were never super offensive, they knew just how far to take it. Your Highness doesn’t just want to make sex jokes, they want to offend you with them. Shock you with them. Hence the Minotaur’s schlong in the film.
Justin Theroux as the evil wizard Lazaar
And I speak of Mel Brook’s films because he was obviously a major influence on this film. Right down to having Natalie Portman wear a chastity belt. But I think that McBride and Green forgot one very important thing that Mel Brooks got right most of the time. You can spoof a film, but you also have to make a good film within the genre you are spoofing. This didn’t always work for Mel Brooks (just look at Dracula Dead and Loving It) but more often then not, it did work. Take for example Young Frankenstein (1974). It was not only a great (actually genius) spoof of all Frankenstein films; it was also an excellent Frankenstein film on its own right. Same goes for Spaceballs (1987). A great spoof, but also, a good sci-fi film. I guess the big difference between Your Highness and the films I’ve mentioned is that Mel Brook’s spoof’s had good scripts. Hell, Young Frankenstein was nominated for a freaking Oscar for its screenplay! Not the case with the script for Your Highness which was written by McBride himself, who really hasn’t proven himself as much of a writer save for having written the script for The Foot Fist Way (2006). According to David Gordon Green himself, most of the dialog was improvised during shooting; a trick that can work if you are working with a cast of comedic geniuses. I mean Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Will Ferrell, they’ll work wonders with improvisation. Doesn’t always work with everyone, apparently, it didn’t work with the cast on Your Highness.
Weird thing is, I have seen McBride being funny. He just wasn’t entirely ‘on’ for this film. Now, if Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that it does not forgive gargantuan multi million dollar failures. You make them loose some moolah instead of making it for them, and it’s adios to you amigo. I hope this won’t be the case with McBride. I think the guy has potential to be one of the greats; he just needs a project that will really go with his personality and style of comedy. Something tells me that a fantasy farce simply wasn’t the way to go with McBride, he seemed to think so. I mean he wrote the damned thing. Sadly, he didn’t even write a good role for himself. He is the lead in the film, yet he isn’t the hero, James Franco is. And speaking of that cast! What the hell. Okay, Franco was obviously there to re-live the good times he had while making Pineapple Express, but Natalie Portman sticks out like a sore thumb in this movie! I guess she was on this production to lighten things up after having made the dark and brooding Black Swan (2010). Plus, they convinced her to show us her ass to sell the movie, sadly, even that old trick failed. This movie cost 60 million dollars and barely made 20 million at the box office! That’s a 40 million dollar loss my friends! That is something that Hollywood won’t easily forgive, I just know it. I’ve seen it happen. But who knows, maybe McBride will do a better film next time, one that fits his style of humor better. Actually, his next film up is called 30 Minutes or Less (2011) and it looks like the kind of project that’s right up his alley. Let’s hope that it will actually be funny. And that it will actually make its money back, if not, I fear we won’t be seeing much of McBride in the near future. Here’s hoping we do!
Rating: 1 ½ out of 5