Saturday, April 9, 2011

Review - Your Highness

On the day that Prince Fabious is set to be married his fiancée Belladonna is captured by an evil Wizard named Leezar. Fabious enlists the help of his lazy brother Thadeous and the two of them set out on a quest to defeat Leezar and save his bride.

"Your Highness" is crass, juvenile and obscene. The comedy adventure is an acquired taste, meaning it is not for everyone (especially not kids or Roger Ebert) but amidst all the vulgarities it succeeds in playing parody to the fantasy genre of film. At its core, the Danny McBride written comedy is a simple spoof film. What makes this spoof comedy a tad bit out of the normal is that is doesn't have to label what it is riffing on. We've seen plenty of parodies in the past that go out of their way to say, "Look at me, I'm riffing "Star Wars" or "Scream"," while Your Highness does not, instead it just follows along the path already paved by the genre of film it is parodying. The fantasy comedy re-visits and/or pays homage to the films that influenced and came before it. A quick example of that is the opening of the film with a standard title scroll that sets up the land we are about to bare witness to. Nearly every fantasy film does this. Here we have an easy picture book opening that sets the table to the fantasy world the audience will be subjected to.

I say subjected because this beckons back to the first sentence of this review, ""Your Highness" is crass, juvenile and obscene." The film (like every other McBride and Ben Best written project) goes out of its way to to be raunchy. 'Your Highness' is a hard R rated comedy for language and sexual situations. The film also has its share of bloodshed and gore, but neither of those hold a candle to all the foul language and sexual innuendos the film is jam packed with. I don't think the movie goes more than 5 minutes without one of the seven dirty words popping up or Danny McBride making some kind of derogatory comment about women and/or sex. Being a fan of McBride's filthy comedic styling's I had no problem with the gushing amount of perversion, in fact I kind of relished it. Sure there were moments I could not believe what I was seeing (like a mystical wise man with an infatuation with boys), but even then I found myself laughing along with all of the trashy behavior taking place on screen. Simply put, this movie is the teenage boy mindset in a fantasy world, only it comes from the mind of an adult. Of course it is bad and it is juvenile, that is kinda the point going in. That has been Danny McBride's on screen persona since his first script "The Foot Fist Way." This movie is a stoner fantasy comedy filled with nudity and crudity, its not suppose to be J.R.R. Tolkien. It prides itself on being the lowest common denominator.

"Your Highness" does not live up to its tagline of "Best. Quest. Ever." by a long shot. The biggest excuse is the film is a riff of what has come before it. There is nothing new in the comedy adventure other than new faces. The entire journey is predictable not to mention filled with plot devices that weigh it down. The script penned by Danny McBride and Ben Best is at its best only okay. McBride and Best should have made an extra effort to give the script a few real surprises instead of solely playing off every trope we've already seen done to death. This is the catch-22 of doing a parody. You are playing off what has come before it. You give the audience a story they can easily say, "I remember that," and you make light of it. Unfortunately this idea of easing the audience with familiarity only half works because too much of this comedy is bogged down to waste time on trivial and cliché dialogue that is dreadful to sit through. All that said, most of the situations, I still had a measurable amount of fun with. Each sequence had something that worked, it just never came together as well as I suppose it could have.

At the end of the day it is apparent that director David Gordon Green and the entire cast were having a lot of fun with this fantasy adventure, perhaps too much fun. The good times they were having on and off screen bled through and gave the film a connectible quality. As stupid as the quest Fabious and Thadeous set out on is, I wanted to be on the adventure with them. James Franco is excellent as the do-good-er Fabious. He is a complete joke and Franco does a great job of making Fabious both believable and mock worthy. He is a the A-typical hero that everyone is suppose to love except he is not the character "Your Highness" focuses on. He is the straight character in the comedy and even so his character is subtly hilarious. The main character is Thadeous, a character that is suppose to be over-the-top and revolting. Danny McBride is sure to polarize audiences with Thadeous. He is a character that comes off as a horse's ass. For some of the audience McBride is going to be grating and a test their ability to make it through the nearly two hour adventure, for others he is going to keep a smile on your face from ear-to-ear everytime he is on screen. I fall in the latter group. McBride's rauch and smut are what make 'Your Highness' memorable, because its definitely not the fantasy element. I've seen scores of better fantasy movies and comedies over the years and there is no way this film can compare to the subject matter it is spoofing, but seeing Danny McBride in medieval times trying to swing a sword around made the experience worth every penny. Is this my favorite performance by McBride, no chance in hell, but it is a amusing experience nevertheless.