Your Highness (R)

Aiming for laughs: A buff Natalie Portman joins Danny McBride, James Franco and Zooey Deschanel in 'Your Highness.' Universal Pictures

The conversation probably went something like this:

David Gordon Green: I really enjoyed directing Pineapple Express. It was so different from the rest of my miniature, character-driven dramas that no one ever went to see. I made some nice scratch on that movie. And it had car chases in it!

Danny McBride: You wanna go even bigger? Why not remake Pineapple Express in a medieval setting with monsters and wizards and Natalie Portman in a skimpy bikini?

David Gordon Green: Oh man, that sounds totally awesome. If only someone would write a script like that!

Danny McBride: Actually, I happen to have one right here!

David Gordon Green: This reads pretty good. But shouldn’t we ask Judd Apatow to give it a polish?

Danny McBride: Apatow? Who needs that hack? Didn’t you see Funny People?

And so we have Your Highness, which stars McBride as Thadeous, the lazy, pothead prince who lives under the perpetual shadow of his intrepid, handsome brother Fabious (James Franco), who returns home after his latest expedition with the severed head of a cyclops and a fiancée, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel).

Thadeous is resigned to being the less favorite of his king father’s sons and is content to sit around and get high. But after the virginal Belladonna is kidnapped by the evil Leezar (Justin Theroux), Fabious beseeches Thadeous to help him rescue the fair maiden. Much adventuring ensues, but the laughs are anemic, the plotting is haphazard, and the big action set pieces are reminiscent of the Star Wars movies (the first three bad ones). Franco is at his most charismatic as the valiant warrior, and Portman, when she finally shows up, displays a newfound athleticism and rock-hard body — the results of her rigorous ballet training for Black Swan. There are occasional funny bits, such as a visit to the home of a Yoda-like sage who demands sexual favors before providing answers, and there’s a running gag that never gets old involving the severed penis of a minotaur.

But Your Highness, which often feels as if it was written under the influence, has no narrative momentum — the story dawdles in fits and starts — and McBride, usually effective in supporting roles, simply isn’t leading-man material. The late John Belushi or even Seth Rogen might have killed with this character, but McBride is mostly just annoying. The actor wrote Your Highness for himself, so you can’t begrudge him his starring role. But that doesn’t mean you have to like it. The film will probably play a lot better in dorm rooms with plenty of beer kegs and bongs on hand, but in the confines of a movie theater, it’s deadly — the sort of bad comedy Mel Brooks made late in his career, until he finally smartened up and quit.

Movie Info

Cast: Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Theroux.

Director: David Gordon Green.

Screenwriters: Danny McBride, Ben Best.

Producer: Scott Stuber.

A Universal Pictures release. Running time: 112 minutes. Vulgar language, violence, gore, sexual situations, minotaur nudity, drug use, adult themes.


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