2011, R, 102 min. Directed by David Gordon Green. Starring Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Toby Jones, Justin Theroux, Zooey Deschanel, Charles Dance, Simon Farnaby, Rasmus Hardiker, Damian Lewis.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., April 8, 2011
Comedy is a state of mind, which is to say if you're in the mood for some well-written, low-brow humor involving McBride's patented (and increasingly, um, refined) selfish/clueless everyman characterizations, enough penis jokes to gag Jenna Jameson, and plenty of borderline creepy gags, then Your Highness just might make you laugh out loud. I know I did, but then again, I wasn't expecting all that much and came out pleasantly surprised. McBride, who first chopsockied his way into the comedy mainstream via 2006's martial arts mockumentary The Foot Fist Way, has had something of a meteoric rise since then. His pudgy features, penchant for sporting mullet coifs, and general air of unperturbed misanthropy serve him well in this risqué parody of the questing-knights genre. The film is equal parts Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Albert Pyun's 1982 low-budget gem, The Sword and the Sorcerer. McBride plays Prince Thadeous, the cowardly, onanistic, and jealous brother of Prince Fabious (Franco, in a goofy, winning performance that appears to have been indescribably fun for him). Fabious, as manly as Thadeous is not, returns from a quest and announces he is betrothed to Deschanel's virginal Belladonna. Alas, before the nuptials can be consecrated, evil wizard Leezar (Theroux, sporting the best of the film’s many outrageously over-the-top hairstyles, along with some of its most priceless dialogue) arrives in court and spirits her away. King Tallious (Dance) orders the vengeful Fabious and the reluctant Thadeous to pursue Leezar – who plans to mate with Belladonna and birth a dragon, or something equally icky – and return the bride-to-be to her proper place in the kingdom. Dick-joke follies ensue, with inspired (if extremely warped) bits of gorge-rising yuks coming from all corners. Jones, as a duplicitous ally, is particularly disturbing/hilarious. Co-written by McBride and Ben Best (The Foot Fist Way), the comedy is indeed sophomoric, but with a knowing, surreal touch, as when Thadeous and Fabious pay a visit to a "wise wizard" who turns out to be something along the lines of a perverse Yoda stoned on hash. Yes, I realize it sounds idiotic, and it is, but in a good way, if you get my drift. Up ’til now I haven't been the world's biggest fan of McBride's schtick, but Your Highness is awfully vulgar fun when it works, which is much of the time (although it could've benefited from a few judicious cuts here and there). And, seriously, where else are you going to see Natalie Portman with a severed Minotaur penis thrust in her face? Only in your dreams, dude. (See "How High," April 8, for more from Green, McBride, and Theroux.)