Friday, April 8, 2011

Your Highness - Theatrical Review



YOUR HIGHNESS




Release Date: April 8, 2011

This type of comedy has been a long time "coming". The medieval fantasy epic has long gone untouched by the knowing hands of a skilled writer. It has had an "ever growing" need to break free of its confines and spread its special seed to anyone that will take it. Now if you giggled even a little bit just now then Your Highness will be the funniest thing you have seen since the last time you farted in a public place. If not then you might want to skip this one I think.



Review Vital Stats:
Theater: AMC 30 at the Block in Orange
Time: 12:01 am April 8, 2011
Projector Type: Digital 2D

Biases:
Loves: Danny McBride, Zooey Deschanel
Likes: James Franco, Natalie Portman, fantasy films
Neutral: Stoner comedies
Hates: Underused talent
Fuck: If that word bothers you then stay far far away from this film



Once again I am here feeling as though I need to defend a film that is just being ravaged by the critics out there. What were people expecting? Did all these critics see the same trailer I did? How could anyone after seeing those trailers (especially the red band one) or the art work for the posters where you see Danny McBride throwing up a deuce while letting smoke out his mouth and nostrils like a chimney expect anything other than what we got? The question never was whether or not its humor would be high brow or clever though. The question has always been how low exactly were director David Gordon Green and star/writer Danny McBride willing to go to elicit some laughs. To which the answer is pretty dam low and often times unnecessarily so, but that doesn't mean I didn't laugh my ass off in that crowded theater full of stoners. If you find constant vulgar terms to be offensive then you have no right to see Your Highness. However if you can laugh at some rather cleverly stupid moments and don't take issue with the F-word to end all F-words then this will be right up your alley.

Fabious (James Franco) is a great hero whom roams the lands with his fellow knights while slaying beasts and saving damsels in distress, one of which named Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) he brings home to marry. His brother Thadeous (Danny McBride) doesn't quite have as many quests under his belt unfortunately or more to the point is about as useful as a pebble when compared to his brother's great deeds of heroism. Spending most of his days torturing his man servant Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker) or just off in the country side getting blazed with a local peasant he doesn't really have a care in the world. That is until on Fabious's wedding day when the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux) crashes in and steals Belladonna away for his own evil purposes. Thadeous and Fabious quickly find themselves on the quest of a lifetime to rescue Belladonna and rid their world of Leezar once and for all. 

Fabious protects the woman he loves.

The first thing you may notice when watching Your Highness is that it captures the fantasy look and feel of past films of the same variety very well. Such 80's classics as Krull and Beastmaster among many others are referenced in just about every scene. And it's not just the mood that it evokes from those "classics" but also the look and overall feel of them. It is rare to see such a fantasy film given this much attention to detail anymore let alone one that is a comedy above all else. The production design overall is outstanding from the set designs to the costumes which contrasts perfectly for the brand of humor the film deals with. Which leads me into the second thing you will notice after the fun and slightly confusing opening credits sequence.

The language or the bad language I should say. I am a fan of just about every single curse word there is and believe they all have a place in any language. But the script that McBride and the others put together here seems like they had a rule that every ten words must have a curse word in there. Cursing can be fun and even funny but usually only when attached to commenting on or having it punctuate something important. Just throwing out f@%# isn't enough to be funny unless you are a teenager or someone brought up thinking that cursing is one of the worse sins you can commit. Your Highness employs the use of the F-word in almost every single line of dialog (at least it was often enough that it seemed that way). And in the opening moments before the story got going it actually bothered me a little bit. It was more like they wanted to justify having that R rating as soon as possible as though the paying customers would revolt unless they got the promiscuous content they came for immediately.

Thadeous is recovering from an over indulgence with weed.

Thankfully it doesn't rely solely on those naughty words to supply us with its humor. Although they are used throughout the film by mostly McBride's character it ends up delving into much deeper and slightly taboo subjects as it progresses. During the course of the brother's quest we are witness to some disturbing and often hilarious situations such as an wise old wizard that not only partakes in some usage of some very strong weed but has tasted the (very) forbidden fruit of youth so to speak. Some of the other creatures or characters they come across on their journey would be considered pretty dam cool in a straight forward fantasy flick but the fact that we get to see such crazy things while laughing our asses off just makes it that much better.

Even after the trailer showed a surprising amount of swords and sorcery action I was still caught a little off guard by how well it nailed all those beats. I was half expecting the action stuff to be rather pedestrian and secondary to all the comic mishaps but when our heroes get into some problematic situations the action kicked into high gear and often eclipsed the humor. From the above par effects to how dead serious certain characters played the drama  is one area that the film truly excelled for me with how well it mixed all the comedy and fantasy aspects. The fantasy genre has been ripe for exploitation for some time now and Your Highness takes full advantage of that opportunity to turn those well established cliches and conceits on their head. Never has the trophy a man takes from his kill been so hysterical as what we are privy to here.

Isabel takes notice of some strange goings on.

Such fantasy staples as dragons, cyclops, wizards, dwarves and minotaurs are all present and accounted for but each time one of them is introduced it is quickly apparent that they are not exactly what we have come to expect. Not all of these conventions of the genre are played entirely for gags either with a couple encounters being downright imaginative. So many spoofs or comedies based off established genres take the lazy route when either paying homage or referencing things from other works that were clearly an inspiration and it was refreshing to see that the filmmakers actually took their time and created some fresh ideas of their own. But what would any of the spectacle or gags be without a cast that can properly deliver on such a crazy premise as this.

Usually in a comedy of this ilk everyone is in on the joke and playing some type of joke character. What I liked was how we got a mixture of both serious characters and completely ludicrous ones. Franco as Fabious plays it mostly straight from beginning to end. You can tell he is having a ton of fun with the hero role but he never once betrays it. He is the knight in shinning armor that can take down a mythical creature all by himself if need be who every now and then winks towards the camera. Then the other piece of the pie is McBride as his brother Thadeous who for lack of a better term pretty much plays it stupid the entire time. This is Danny McBride like you have ALWAYS seen him before for better or worse. He is constantly degrading people, being a masochist and generally just being a foul and hurtful person to others while trying to make himself look good at every turn. Even when his character predictably turns the other cheek and begins to think of others he still hasn't really changed, he just starts being more helpful. If you have ever had a problem with him in the past then this will not help change your mind.

Leezar and Belladonna get to know one another.

The other big name here is of course Natalie Portman as Isabel, a fierce female warrior they meet while on their quest. Just like Franco she is pretty much playing it straight here as the bad ass babe that no one better mess with. I liked her in the role and thought she shared a good chemistry with her co-stars but I gotta admit that other than some eye candy she didn't really add much to the mix for me. We already had the straight one with Franco and other than a couple scenes involving McBride making a series of unsuccessful attempts to sleep with her I never once found her to be very necessary (although when she refers to her "beaver" I gotta admit that had me in stitches). The other two major players were Theroux as the wizard Leezar who steals every scene he is in with his stuck-up-rich-boy-who-has-been-deprived-of-sex approach to his character and Deschanel as the damsel in distress who unfortunately isn't given much to do with a character that has been living in a tower all her life.


I have to bring up the whole "stoner comedy" thing as well. I think it is funny that there are so many drug references in the film's advertising as well as in the actual film (Your "High"ness) but there are only a couple of scenes where anyone actually uses drugs. Quite honestly I was expecting a ton of drug use in the film, especially considering director Green and stars Franco and McBride's last feature film together, the overrated stoner comedy Pineapple Express. I was pleased to find very few jokes about people being high which made the couple times we did see characters indulge themselves to be genuinely funny as opposed to a "oh, this again" feeling. Oh and that low brow humor I mentioned, while I cannot condemn some of the more obvious jokes (watch out for the booby trap) there is one particular running gag that seems to bother people. I am speaking of course about the penis.

Our heroes...or so they think.

In reference to the penis joke, sure the idea of a penis being funny is pretty old hat but oh man do they take it to the next level here. Anyone that doesn't crack a smile at that specific moment when it is revealed is dead inside and that is not to mention the on going jokes that come after its inclusion into the narrative. Have you ever heard of the joke that is re-used so many times that it ceases to be funny anymore and then it is brought back at the exact right time and all of a sudden is funny again? Well suffice to say that you get that here and in my opinion it will go down as one of the greatest gags of all time (pun very much intended).

I guess your enjoyment of the film will ultimately boil down to your tolerance for some uniquely hilarious bottom of the barrel humor that is only matched by its enthusiasm for taking the fantasy epic and making it its bitch. All the actors are game and even though not all of them were used to their full potential I found nothing really lacking from any of their performances. The special effects impressed as did many of the action scenes. But you know what, the actors may have been in fine form, the film may have looked fantastic and it might have had some truly invigorating action set pieces but the true test to whether a comedy works is always did it make you laugh. My friends I am here to tell you that while watching Your Highness I was not only in a constant state of laughter but found it all to be a great time at the movies filled with some great moments that will go down in history simply  for how audacious they were. And isn't that why we go out every weekend, to have a good time? This is just a stupid good time and so it is my pleasure to say...


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1 comments:

Dan O. said...

It's not terribly hilarious but there were a couple of good lines from McBride and Franco that kept this film going but there was just so much potential here that you just somehow know it could have been way much better. Good Review!

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