Wait. What? David Gordon Green, the edgy arty poster boy for reflective, solemn character studies that peel the veneer away from the American mythos – films such as George Washington and All the Real Girls and Undertow – is the one responsible for Your Highness? How does that even happen?
It’s one thing to say that Hollywood scoops up indie filmmakers, chews them up, and spits out McG and Brett Ratner clones, which absolutely happens. But that’s on a whole ’nother level to what it has done to Green. Someone took the most glorious bottle of vintage champagne and whipped up Tang mimosas. Someone made a sloppy joe with the meat of the last dodo. I thought Green’s last foray into stoner comedy, Pineapple Express, was rough, but that was a masterpiece of wit and nuance compared to Your Highness.
There is no point to this unforgivable excuse for a comedy except for Danny McBride to make his buddies – director Green, costar James Franco – chortle over pot jokes and at least pretend to get himself laid. For “screenwriter” McBride to cast himself as the nominal hero here, one whom, as the film opens, is under threat of death for having had sex with another man’s wife – which indulges both the notion of women as men’s property not to be violated, and McBride’s own dubious irresistibility.
Later, gorgeous kick-ass Amazonian warrior chick Natalie Portman will totally want to do him, too. In between, McBride’s idiot dork Thadeous, lesser prince of some pseudo medieval realm, will go a-questing with his fabulous brother, heir-to-the-throne Fabious (Franco) in order to prevent Fabious’s bride-to-be, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), from getting raped by the wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux) as part of some sort of magical ceremony that doesn’t really seem to be about anything other than, you know, magically sanctioned rape.
But hey, I’m just a hairy-legged feminazi with no sense of humor. Can’t I see that this is all taking place on a planet with two moons, so it’s not Earth, so it’s totally fantasy, so it’s entirely immune to criticism? Why can’t I just chillax? You should too! If you think dwarves are by nature hilarious, The Gay is something to fear, “slut” is a fantastic compliment for a woman one finds attractive, kicks to the crotch are awesome, tits are even more awesome, and a quest built around the notion that a woman’s virginity is supernaturally enchanted but a woman who has been raped is ruined, this is the flick for you.
Just call a rape “the f*ening,” and it’s all good. Hell, it’s suddenly side-splitting. Or not. Your mileage may vary inversely with your age, IQ and degree of enlightenment. Oh, and you know how I said McBride is the screenwriter (cocredited with Ben Best)? Apparently, almost all of the dialogue is actually improvised – there was no script on set. There was only McBride tossing out off-the-cuff yucks, the kind of material brilliant wags can just invent on a dime without even having to think about it, they’re just that good. Like how McBride slings a comeback to some gobbledygook verilys and forsooths and whatnot by rolling his eyes and moaning, “Oh, f*.” Sheer genius.
I bet he and Best slaved over one line: “Make funny faces to entertain me.” Thadeous demands this of his manservant Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker) and – get this! – Courtney complies!
If only the rest of Your Highness were as droll! Though McBride’s whine of “This quest sucks” is good, too: It’s funny ’cuz it’s true.
YOUR HIGHNESS (1) Directed by David Gordon Green. • Starring Natalie Portman, James Franco, Zooey Deschanel. • Rated PG. • 103 min. • At Century Cinemas Del Monte, Maya Cinemas, Northridge Cinemas.