One day, future generations may look back at Your Highness and ask: "They spent how many millions to make a bunch of dick jokes?"
You don't need to take a film crew to Northern Ireland; hire a couple of Oscar nominees; line up a once-promising indie director; rent a special-effects set-up; build a stable of freaky puppets; and pay a writer or two. But somebody did -- and the world is the lesser for it.
Your Highness, directed by David Gordon Green (All the Real Girls, Pineapple Express), is ostensibly a parody of the dusty genre in which knights undertake a journey through a perilous and semi-magical land. Why even bother when such much-cleverer riffs as Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Princess Bride already exist -- and still hold up?
Nonetheless, the very slim plot finds two brothers -- the heroic Prince Fabious (James Franco) and the petulant, oafish Prince Thadeous (Danny McBride) -- "questing" in order to save Fabious' fiancée (Zooey Deschanel), who has been kidnapped by an evil wizard named Leezar (Justin Theroux). En route, they encounter a child-molesting wizard; topless women; a five-fingered snake; a man with no penis; a minotaur with a huge penis; and a fellow quester (Natalie Portman, in a metal thong).
I sit through plenty of unfunny movies, but what is particularly grating about Your Highness is how it smacks of being intentionally crappy: on-and-off English accents worthy of high school theatrics; lack of plot or tension; unexplained characters and scenarios; anachronistic asides. Its contempt for the audience is palpable: "If we openly acknowledge this film is lame, then what are you complaining about?" (Fair warning when its title -- Your HIGHness -- has all the wit of a seventh-grader discovering wordplay.)
Much of the blame clearly lies at McBride's feet: He co-wrote this, headlines and it's very much in his wheelhouse as a performer, portraying the self-deluded, obnoxious man-child. But Green shows little skill here directing either comedy or action. Are the special effects actually bad, or just fake-bad? Is the clunky dialogue a joke? Is McBride really wearing a giant dong around his neck?
James Franco is a cutie, but he looks as bored and dazed here as he was hosting the Oscars. McBride, on the other hand, rightly appears as smug and self-satisfied as the half-assed dude who just cashed a huge paycheck for saying "balls" a lot. The joke's on us.
Directed by David Gordon Green
Starring James Franco, Danny McBride, Natalie Portman, Justin Theroux