Being forced to sit through David Gordon Green’s YOUR HIGHNESS reminded me of GHOSTBUSTERS and what a piece of fucking genius that film was in being able to combine the horror genre with an intelligent and funny sense of humor. The latter film wasn’t forced to resort to simple dick and fart jokes spoken by comedians who used the film’s storyline as a mere setup for their comedy routine. YOUR HIGHNESS promised to be the successor to such films as GHOSTBUSTERS and Mel Brooks’ comedy classics from the 70s. Instead, David Gordon Green has surprisingly delivered a lifeless, stinking corpse of a movie that bears zero resemblance to the screen gems he has ably crafted in the past (GEORGE WASHINGTON, ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS, and PINEAPPLE EXPRESS). More disappointingly, YOUR HIGHNESS has also managed to make me rid myself of my infatuation with Danny McBride’s brand of comedy.

YOUR HIGHNESS is a standard sword and sorcery tale about two brothers, Thadeus (Danny McBride) and Fabious (James Franco), who are the sons of King Tallious (Charles Dance). Thadeus is a brave and noble warrior and the heir to the kingdom’s throne whereas Fabious is a lazy, fat, idiot who can never do anything right. Thadeus returns home from one of his many successful quests with a young woman (Zoey Deschanel) who is to be his bride. However, the wedding ceremony is interrupted by the evil sorcerer Leezar (Justin Theroux), who kidnaps the bride and imprisons her inside her dungeon. When the two moons converge, the wizard intends to fuck the bride, impregnating her with a dragon that will allow the wizard to take over the kingdom. Thadeus and Fabious set out to rescue the captive bride and along their journey they encounter a bunch of boring adventures and run into a female warrior (Natalie Portman), who is also intent on finding Leezar and killing him for massacring her family.

One has to wonder where YOUR HIGHNESS went wrong. Conceptually, the film is great. Although we have seen a few recent comedic takes on the superhero and horror genres, we haven’t seen very much for other promising genres such as fantasy and sci-fi. In fact, other than Mel Brooks’ ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS, I can’t recall any modern fantasy comedies and Brooks’ film wasn’t very recent (1993). Furthermore, having a talented director like David Gordon Green added even more anticipation for what YOUR HIGHNESS could have become. Some may have had reservations about the director helming this sort of film given the serious dramas Green has done in the past. However, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS and EASTBOUND & DOWN proved that the director has a keen eye for comedy and his pairing with the hilarious Danny McBride added more assurance that this film could and would work. Finally, add to this mix the money casting of James Franco and Natalie Portman, both fresh off of critically-acclaimed and award winning films, and all seemed guaranteed that YOUR HIGHNESS was poised to become this generation’s GHOSTBUSTERS or A PRINCESS BRIDE. It wasn’t and it wasn’t in a big fucked up way.

So what about Danny McBride? I could not get enough of the first season of EASTBOUND & DOWN when I first saw it. Finally, here was an actor who was rude and un-PC as all fuck without any hints of softness, compassion, or the ability to do clean humor. Danny McBride was what I always wished Jack Black would have remained before he completely sold out to big-budget family fare. I’ll be the first to admit that McBride has a very limited range of acting skill and although his comedy is hilarious as all hell at the moment, its not timeless and it will probably get old very soon. However, until that time comes, I regularly seek out my Danny McBride fill. Unfortunately, either McBride wasn’t right for this role or the development of his character was entirely absent during the film’s screenwriting phase. EASTBOUND & DOWN is the kind of show in which all the characters and situations act as set-ups for McBride’s talents. The show doesn’t require any character development as McBride just simply needs to play a dumb, racist, sexist redneck. That’s all fine and good for a show like EASTBOUND, but when you’re starring in a movie, good character development is an essential element for a successful movie. In YOUR HIGHNESS, McBride resorts to the same arrogant and vulgar schtick he’s successfully relied on in EASTBOUND, but instead of the overly-confident former baseball player he portrays on the show, he attempts to fit the same type of humor into a petulant and spoiled prince. It doesn’t work. The first few utterances of “fuck” are funny only because its not something you hear in a fantasy movie, but that gets old fast and McBride’s character quickly devolves into a unremarkable one-note bore.

As for the rest of the cast, the development of these characters is similarly misguided and fails to hit the mark by a long shot. James Franco’s Fabious character is a noble warrior prince who spouts off cheesy, clichéd lines. He’s neither funny nor interesting in any way and I wondered why someone like Franco was cast to play this role. Franco plays the straight role to McBride’s character, which given the comedy Franco has played in other films (PINEAPPLE EXPRESS), I was hoping for a comedy team-up like Cheech and Chong rather than the arrangement they ultimately had in the film. It would have been great to have seen both Franco and McBride play rude, spoiled princes who embark on their quest without taking it seriously.

Coming now to Natalie Portman, unlike the other characters, I wasn’t expecting her to be funny and she is one of the few casting choices that works. She’s the kick-ass warrior who sets out to kill Leezar for killing her family. She’s a tough chick who can handle her own. I ended up liking her character even more than Franco and McBride, which I was not expecting. I give Natalie Portman a lot of shit for being in so many movies lately, but I have to admit that in the few that I have seen her in over the past couple of years, she has grown as an actress and has attained a screen presence befitting a movie star.

The funniest and most interesting character in YOUR HIGHNESS is without a doubt the villain of the movie, the sorcerer Leezar. Justin Theroux ends up outshining everyone with bitchy and hilarious lines. I suppose its only fitting that a screenwriter would give himself the best lines of the movie (yes, Theroux is both a talented screenwriter and an actor).

The intentions behind YOUR HIGHNESS were clearly well-meaning and worked on paper. A fantasy comedy that pays tribute to the fantasy films of the 80s (WILLOW, KRULL) is a cool idea, but the movie fails to capitalize on the elements that characterized those films. In the end, YOUR HIGHNESS isn’t a tribute so much as its just another bad comedy that serves to showcase Danny McBride. Even in that role, the movie fails. Constantly using the word ‘fuck’ isn’t funny and it’s a bad substitute for wit. I wasn’t expecting sophisticated comedy, but I was expecting it to at least be funny during half of its running time.

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