Your Highness is going to make you laugh, gasp, shake your head in disgust and laugh some more.
I am sure they will call it a satire. But if that were the case, I would say it is a failure. Instead, I consider this to be – and believe its intentions were to be – a straight comedy which just happens to also be a fantasy action movie. Most satire is funny and thus often gets confused with comedy. It is the social criticism which separates the two, and I don’t believe Your Highness qualifies even remotely.
However, what we do have is an often hilarious and occasionally ridiculous comedy, which is filmed beautifully in Northern Ireland and also doubles as a fantasy adventure. Instead of social criticism, Danny McBride (who also co-wrote the script) and James Franco instead offer us every penis and homosexual joke in the book, along with a few that never even made the book. They deliver to us a story which has been done before numerous times, but instead of attempting a satire, they just make it their own and have as much fun as possible with it. It ends up being quite unique.
Actually, when I say McBride co-wrote the script, perhaps a more accurate description is that he co-wrote the outline of the script, as director David Gordon Green (who also directed Pineapple Express) has said that most of the film was improvised. Regardless of the details or whether it is meant to be a satire or just a comedy, its success is due to the strong acting all the way around. The fact that is was mainly improvised is all the more impressive.
McBride plays Prince Thadeous, a rather lazy pothead Prince who lives in the shadow of his brother, Prince Fabious (Franco) who is a bit more heroic and thus the heir apparent to the throne. Thadeous sits around smoking that good wizard weed all day while hanging with damsels and maidens and his good friend who happens to be a stoner toad. Franco is to wed his fiancee, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), but their ceremony is interrupted by an evil sorcerer named Leezar (Justin Theroux) and his three evil mothers/witches. Leezar kidnaps Belladonna and thus, a quest is born for these two brothers to embark on.
Sure McBride curses at an obscene pace that would make an average potty-mouth blush, but he is the glue that holds the film together. His vast variety of offending jokes always seem to come at the right time and each are slightly different and/or vulgar. Franco, meanwhile, is his usual amazing self, and he goes from one instance of vanquishing his enemies to the next of reciting romantic poetry to his beloved Belladonna.
But the true star of the movie is naturally the recent Oscar winner, Natalie Portman. She has quietly announced herself to Hollywood as perhaps its most versatile actress, and the performance she gives in Your Highness is simply fantastic. While Franco and McBride goof around with potty mouth jokes and constant bickering, Portman provides a stark contrast with her seriousness as a bad-ass bitch in a time where men basically ran the world and bad-ass bitches were scarce.
She is truly a warrior and a force to be reckoned with. But yet, her comedic timing and delivery cannot be denied. Portman has done some comedy but one would never really classify her as funny before this movie came out. Not until you here her describing her need for revenge as a “burning in her beaver” with an absolute straight face will you truly understand.
This is a girl who has grown up as both an actress and a woman right before our eyes. From her beginning films in Leon (The Professional) and Heat, to her masterful performances in V for Vendetta, Closer and of course Black Swan, she has only gotten better with time and seasoning. Not to mention she pulled off Padme in the Star Wars movies. In addition, the wonderful thong scene was all we could hope for and more. Well, we now have a solid comedy to add to her repertoire, and it comes on the heels of her Best Actress win. With a few more movies scheduled this year, her star will only continue to rise.
The rest of the cast are decent enough, with Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker) providing quite a few laughs himself. Theroux is also fun to watch as the evil wizard. And those three witches were rather terrifying. But against such top-notch talent in Franco and Portman, the rest of the cast is just no match.
To top everything off, the Northern Ireland scenery is stunning and really adds to the feel of the movie, while the action scenes are choreographed brilliantly. It is not exactly what I expected, and yet it is everything I hoped it would be. Your Highness succeeds for what it is, not for what people want it to be.
Strong performances from the three leads, some great action scenes and strong humor make for a pretty enjoyable watch.