Your Highness (2011)

(In theaters, April 2011) I was pretty sure I would loathe this film: After all, I really didn’t care for Pineapple Express, and this follow-up seemed to be heading for the same coarse stoner humour.  But I had forgotten that I dislike bad self-important heroic fantasy even more than I don’t care for stoner fantasy.  So that’s how I end up feeling relatively warm regarding Your Highness, which seems happy stuffing drugs, profanity and coarseness into a bog-standard fantasy premise.  It works better than anyone would expect, in no small part because the framework of the film itself works fine, and it features decent set-pieces (a coach pursuit action sequence more than holds its own when stripped of comic elements).  Otherwise, we get a deeply reluctant hero, a perverted mage, pervasive swearing, nudity, crudity and far too much gore for what’s supposed to be a light-hearted film. (As with Pineapple Express, there’s a feeling that a film as juvenile as Your Highness doesn’t actually deserve the level of gore that it features.) As a comedy operating at the edge of good taste, You Highness often over steps into material that goes beyond humour and into bad taste, hitting sexism, homophobia, immaturity and lameness along the way.  Danny McBride bears the brunt of the film’s humour as the foul-mouthed cowardly protagonist while James Franco is fine as the always-smiling hero, whereas neither Natalie Portman nor Zooey Deschanel embarrass themselves through their performance –although, mind you, Portman is playing the straight-woman, while Deschanel doesn’t have much to do except being the classic damsel-in-distress.  Otherwise, it’s not much of a film for the ages (I suspect that seeing it at the legendary Alamo Drafthouse helped a bit in assessing the film above its true value), but it’s certainly an interesting oddity in the movie landscape: Given the cost of fantasy films in general and their inconsistent level of commercial success, it’s almost mind-boggling that anyone took enough chances on the concept to see the film through to completion.  I suspect that Your Highness will appeal mainly to those who can’t take another ponderous high-fantasy film.  It’s not much as itself, but as an antidote to worse films, it’s almost refreshing.

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