Obviously the makers of Your Highness are competing with Zack Snyder in the race to see who can waste money fastest and in the most outrageous manner possible. In Sucker Punch, Snyder – armed with a big ol’ budget and a head full of nutty ideas – offered us an earnest glimpse into his psyche, where scantily clad young women fight Nazi robots and dragons. It was like watching silly Don Quixote riding blindly towards the windmills, and frankly, I found it endearing. But over-ambitious vanity projects don’t exactly endear themselves to viewers, and audiences kept away accordingly. David Gordon Green’s Your Highness is similarly a vanity project, but there is nothing endearing or earnest about it. Penned by Danny McBride and Ben Best, it is a lazy stoner comedy that wastes the immense comedic talent of everyone in front of and behind the camera. It is aggressively violent, features expensive looking special effects, detailed production design and a Yoda-like puppet character that is quickly established as a child molester. In this. A lazy stoner comedy. I can only assume the producers – McBride included – are conducting some sort of elaborate scam in which a sure-fire flop will leave them in riches, a’la, well, The Producers.
McBride stars as Thadeous, the ne’er-do-well son of King Tallious (Charles Dance) and brother to the honourable Prince Fabious (James Franco, whose dim, charming grin remains delightful even here). Fabious returns home from yet another successful quest with the luscious Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) on his arm. They are to be married at once! Enter evil wizard Lazar (Justin Theroux) who kidnaps Belladonna before the vows can take place, for he is destined to impregnate her with his demon spawn and bring forth the end of the world. Lazar refers to it as – and I’ve cleaned up the language a little – The [Makelove]ening. The crestfallen Fabious cannot bear the thought of his virgin bride getting freaky with another man, so he sets out to rescue her, and brings his slovenly, pot-smoking brother along for the ride.
At its best, Your Highness feels like a movie length episode of The Mighty Boosh, a show that also traffics in oddball fantasy sequences and flight-of-fancy humour. At its worst, it’s literally like watching people get stoned and walk around aimlessly. Thadeous and Fabious quest goes nowhere – fast – and not even the introduction of bloodthirsty warrior Isabel (Natalie Portman) can liven up proceedings. It seems as if Green, Best and McBride wanted to create a “spoof” movie along the lines of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, or Robin Hood: Men in Tights, but instead of writing any jokes or funny sequences, they thought it would be enough to simply have olde-timey people drop f-bombs. It’s really, really lame.
David Gordon Green made a wonderful film a number of years ago called All the Real Girls, which also starred Deschanel and McBride. Sweet, unassuming and filled with emotional honesty, it hinted that he would become one of the best directors of his generation. His 2008 film Pineapple Express was a lot of fun, but I had hoped it was merely a digression from his more affecting work. Best and McBride meanwhile are co-creators of the brutally funny (or should that be brutal and funny) Eastbound and Down, one of the finest shows on TV at the moment (of which Green has directed a number of episodes). These guys teaming up for a feature film should have been a cinematic delight. Instead, it’s a meandering pseudo-epic with one joke (they’re swearing in the olden days!) repeated ad nauseum. Say what you will, but Sucker Punch – although a terrible mistake that should never have emerged from the studio system – had a vision, and was made with passion. This is a mess, made for no one in particular. It really feels as if Green and co. were offered a blank check to make any film of their choosing, but instead of creating something from the heart, they’ve decided to play a very expensive game of dress ups, with the singular intention of making one another snigger. Only the innate charm of its cast makes this watchable. That being said, it’s hard to heap praise upon the normally excellent McBride when he also wrote and produced the thing.
Your Highness is now showing across Australia.