Friday, April 8, 2011

Doobies Should Be Handed Out At The Door: Your Highness

This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

I was under the impression that a "stoner comedy" involves main characters who spend the majority of a film stoned and/or on the quest to get weed in order to get more stoned. But in the case of "Your Highness"--which, judging from its ads and ad placements is clearly marketing itself as a stoner comedy--I think it just means it's a movie that will seem a lot funnier if you watch it while stoned.

It will also probably seem a lot funnier if you grew up loving such sword and sorcery epics as "Conan the Barbarian," "Excalibur" and, of course, "The Sword and the Sorcerer."

Personally, that particular genre never really appealed to me--my youthful movie interests were centered on horror, sci-fi, and anything involving a naked Richard Gere--and aside from way too many viewings of "Beastmaster," I probably haven't seen any of the movies "Your Highness" is both satirizing and paying tribute to. (And I wasn't stoned, so you can probably see where this is going...)

The basic story centers on slacker Prince Thadeous (Danny McBride), and his older and more accomplished brother, Prince Fabious (James Franco). Fabious has returned home from a quest with the head of a slayed cyclops, and Zooey Deschanel.

Zooey plays Belladonna, a lass Fabious has rescued from the evil Leezar (Justin Theroux). Having spent a life in captivity, she is virginal, and pretty dim. In other words, the perfect bride! But before the two can wed, she is kidnapped by Leezar, so Fabious and a reluctant Thadeous must embark on a quest to rescue her and thwart Leezar's plans to take over the world and father a dragon baby.

Along the way they are faced with traitors, a pervy wizard puppet, a five-headed lizard monster, and Natalie Portman's Isabel, a woman on a quest of her own, who needs no help from the buffoons around her.

Portman is also the best thing about the movie. She kicks ass, looks breathtakingly beautiful, and delivers what is easily the film's funniest line with an admirably straight face.

A movie this stupid doesn't need to look as good as it does, but I guess that's one thing director David Gordon Green has carried over from his artier film days. ("George Washington" and "All the Real Girls"--which also stars Zooey Deschanel and Danny McBride--are two of the most beautifully-shot films I've ever seen.)

It certainly has better effects than it needs to have, and some of the fight scenes are actually pretty thrilling. It almost feels like they really wanted to make an honest-to-goodness fantasy epic--there's definitely one in there--but lacked the courage of their convictions, and instead decided to go the parody route.

The problem is, the parody is too tame, and what we get instead is humor centered on anachronistic swearing, and a lot of really, really lame gags, most of them involving dicks: the viewing of dicks, the lack of dicks, and the fear of other men's dicks.

This all leads to some obvious questions about the creation of this movie. Were Green and McBride stoned when they wrote it? Was the cast when they filmed it? Did they get the producers and studio stoned before they screened it? And if all or even some of that is true, it seems only fair that there be a person passing out doobies--"Even More Immersive than 3D!"--at the theater door. But since they aren't, all I can say is, see this movie sober and you're bound to have your high hopes shattered.

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