In Your Highness, lazy Prince Thadeous (Danny McBride) sits in the shadows of his much more handsome and heroic brother, and heir to the thrown, Prince Fabious (James Franco). When evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux) captures Fabious' fiancé Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), the brothers must team up on a quest to rescue her. Along the way, they encounter traitorous knights, bizarre-looking monsters and meet up with a hot female warrior named Isabella (Natalie Portman).
McBride co-wrote the screenplay for Your Highness along with Ben Best, so it's not much of a surprise that he cast himself as the lead. McBride, best known for his role as Kenny Powers in HBO's Eastbound & Down, as well as supporting comedic roles in Pineapple Express and Due Date, fails to live up to leading man expectations. Audiences need someone with more charm and wit - somebody more funny than gross - in the role of the slacker hero. Though he's had his flops, Seth Rogen has successfully transitioned from comedic relief to leading man, something McBride doesn't seem to have mastered yet in Your Highness.
There were definitely moments when I laughed out loud and other times when I snickered to myself, but overall Your Highness left me wanting more. The film relied heavily on mixing four-letter words with old English and jokes about boners and hand jobs. Had the jokes been better crafted and the talent of the ridiculously awesome cast better utilized, the movie would have been much funnier.
Theroux stole many of his scenes with some of the film's most hilarious lines. He also enjoyed some of the script's best character development in Leezar, the villain who is trying to fulfill a ridiculous ancient prophecy by impregnating a virgin with a dragon on the night when two moons align. Theroux brought vulnerability and insecurity to Leezar, which we often don't get to see in a film's villain. While we don't want to see Leezar's twisted mission succeed, his anxiety makes him relatable and likable, especially for a power-hungry mad man.
The fact that the cast contains two recent Oscar nominees (and one of them a winner in Portman) can't go unnoticed. While neither will earn a nomination for their roles in Your Highness, both did a solid enough job with what they were given. Franco is convincing as a handsome, adventurous prince (which he basically is in real life, right?) who is a bit naive when it comes to pervy wizards. He stays seriously in character even in the most outlandish situations. Portman plays an ass-kicking warrior on her own quest and nails her action sequences while reiterating that she can do funny.
Your Highness succeeds in the special effects department. The creepy wizard had a Star Wars creature vibe, while the head of the cyclops and Marteetee's hand monster could have felt at home in The Odyssey. The creatures themselves looked flawlessly integrated and the visual representation of Leezar's magical powers was pretty awesome. I could have gone without the minotaur's hard-on, but maybe that's just me.
Though the quest itself was entertaining and the film was funny, it doesn't live up to satirical medieval quest films of decades past. Your Highness fell flat with a lack of solid, hilarious jokes. The film's strong, talented cast builds expectations, but the script left little for them to work with. Perhaps it would have been better if I had seen it in a different state of mind, as the film's title suggests.
Starring Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Justin Theroux.
Directed by David Gordon Green.