In case the pun in the name wasn’t immediately clear, Your Highness is the rare combination of stoner comedy and fantasy movie. The movie is directed by David Green of Pineapple Express fame, and was written by and stars Danny McBride, who is most memorable for his co-starring roles in Pineapple Express and Eastbound & Down.
Your Highness is, luckily, not an attempt to parody recent fantasy movies ala the Not Another X series. Instead, it’s a foul-mouthed, anachronistic, violent romp through a world mostly inspired by 80s fantasy movies such as Labyrinth and Princess Bride. Whether it is ‘good’ or not depends mostly on if the idea of that last sentence appeals to you. If the answer is “no,” then thanks for playing, but if the answer is “yes” then Your Highness has a bizarre tale with plenty of humor in store.
Your Highness is the tale of two princes. The younger, Prince Thadeous, played by Danny McBride, is spoiled, foul mouthed, perennially stoned and resents his status in life as second fiddle to his older brother, Prince Fabious, played by James Franco. Fabious is the embodiment of medieval chivalry who continuously defends the kingdom from magical and mythical threats. Doing so won him the adoration of the people and his father, the king. Meanwhile, Thadeous is the bane of his father’s existence, constantly getting into messes including an amusing encounter with a dwarf kingdom.
Fabious is introduced returning home from a recent triumph over the kingdom’s perennial villain, the wizard Leezar, played by Justin Theroux. He has rescued from the evil wizard’s kingdom a ‘fair maiden’ named Belladonna, played by Zooey Deschanel, who he shortly intends to marry. True to fairy tale form they resolve to marry the very next day, not wanting to waste another second.
However, this joyous ceremony is disrupted when the villainous Leezar magically appears, intent on kidnapping Belladonna and returning her to his tower. Thadeous, having skipped out on the ceremony to drown his sorrows in some herbal substances, misses the whole attack and returns inebriated and ready to party.Needless to say, the king is extremely displeased and forces him to go on a quest with Fabious to recover Belladonna and vanquish Leezar once and for all.
From there, it is a long strange journey with humor driven mainly by the contrast between McBride and Franco’s characters. McBride’s character insults everything around him, specifically his servant, Courtney, disregards advice and is generally a jerk. It is a role very reminiscent of Kenny Powers from Eastbound & Down for McBride. Since it is not anything new for him, it is definitely a character he has down pat.
Franco counters all this by absolutely deadpanning his role as the good brother. He speaks all his lines with absolute seriousness no matter how awkwardly medieval and silly they are and effectively drags McBride along.
On the journey, they encounter another adventurer named Isabel, played by Natalie Portman, who quickly gets wrapped up in their quest. Natalie plays the last roll you would expect her to, especially after seeing the critically acclaimed Black Swan. She is the last survivor of a family wiped out by Leezar, and is entirely consumed with thoughts of murderous rage and revenge. The outlandishness of Natalie Portman acting this ruthless and vengeful is hilarious and generates plenty of laughs.
The film certainly shows the directors’ Pineapple Express roots, which is to say it has a lot of action and gore, much more than you would expect for a comedy. While the humor comes mostly from the cast’s strange encounters and McBride’s general foulness, there is also a significant amount of it from the intentionally over the top action and gore. It blatantly pokes fun at movies that take themselves too seriously and try too hard to be “epic.”
This movie, much like many placed in the stoner comedy genre, exists for a solid raunchy laugh and fills that roll to a tee. While this might narrow its a appeal, Your Highness seems destined for the same kind of recent cult comedy status as Grandma’s Boy.