"Your Highness:" Scant Story, Lots of Sex Jokes

by Jeff Beck, Guest Film Critic
"Your Highness:" Scant Story, Lots of Sex Jokes

“Your Highness” is a film that seems to have come to fruition when the filmmakers asked themselves one question: How many sex jokes can we squeeze into approximately 100 minutes while making it appear as though we’re actually making a film with a story? With that thought in mind, director David Gordon Green and writers Danny McBride and Ben Best set out to put together this completely unfunny film filled to the brim with non-stop sexual references and other bits of lowbrow humor.

The scant story involves two brothers, Thadeous (McBride) and Fabious (James Franco), who are princes of the realm. Fabious is the kind of man who is always off on a quest whereas Thadeous always stays at home, doing whatever he does in his spare time. On Fabious’s latest quest, he returns with the joyous news that he plans to marry Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), but during the wedding, she is captured by an evil wizard known as Leezar (Justin Theroux).

Fabious immediately sets out to rescue her, but this time his father recommends that he take along Thadeous. Thadeous is hesitant, but faced with either going on the quest or being banished from the kingdom, he decides to go along. Their mission is to go to Leezar’s lair and stop him from making love to Belladonna while the two moons make contact which would cause a dragon to be born which he will use to rule the world (yes, I know how silly it sounds, but that’s the plot). However, before they can do that, they must find the one weapon that they can use to destroy the wizard forever: the powerful unicorn sword.

It’s easy to imagine a pair of prepubescent kids sitting at a desk scribbling out the screenplay for this film, giggling at all the sex jokes that they tried to cram into it. However, that’s not where the lowbrow humor ends. This is also one of those films that tries to use profanity to be funny, but trying to do something like that almost never works. It doesn’t work for shock value (perhaps if you’ve never heard the words before), nor are the words themselves funny.

Several attempts at humor occur during the brothers’ visit to the house of a “wiseman.” We quickly discover though that it is not a man at all, but rather some kind of creature that grows and smokes copious amounts of pot while wanting to be kissed by his guests. He, of course, offers some pot to his guests who try to make it funny, but it isn’t anything that we haven’t seen hundreds, if not thousands, of times before. All the while, it’s implied that the wiseman is some kind of pervert. Perhaps the filmmakers thought that the more jokes they tried to throw in each segment, the better their chances would be that something would work, but sadly none of it does.

The entire film merely ends up being a template for all the bad jokes. This is shown really well from the point when the brothers set out on their quest. From here, the film feels like it just meanders about, allowing them to get into one strange situation after another including being captured by a tribe of forest people who make them fight against a multi-headed dragon controlled by the tribe’s chief. It’s parts like this that make you wonder if they’ll ever actually get going on their quest.

If the writers weren’t going to have the characters do anything interesting, they should at least had the characters be interesting themselves. Instead, we get flat and boring characters that never develop, nor do we ever end up caring about them. This is mainly because they end up being more annoying than engaging and more pathetic than heroic.

This begs the question as to how recent Academy Award nominees James Franco and Natalie Portman, who shows up later in the film as someone else who wants to destroy the wizard, got dragged into this mess in the first place. With talent like theirs, you’d think they’d be able to smell a garbage heap like this from miles away, though Portman did just do a movie with Ashton Kutcher, so she might still be in the process of honing her sense for good material. For this film, they both kind of hope that overacting will compensate for the terrible material, Franco especially, but even the greatest actors of all time would have had a hard time making this junk work.

It’s hard to believe that David Gordon Green is the same director who brought us the great film “Snow Angels” merely a few years ago and also the well-received comedy “Pineapple Express.” While I never saw the latter, I can’t imagine it could be as lame-brained as this. It’s hard to imagine who would find this kind of material funny. Speaking of which, the two stoner fellows sitting behind me at this particular screening were laughing quite a bit, even at material that wasn’t really meant to be funny, while the rest of the theater was absolutely silent. Take that as you will. 1.5/4 stars.