“Your Highness,” the new film from director David Gordon Green, isn’t what you’d call a good movie.
Perhaps the first-ever medieval stoner/buddy comedy, it’s unabashedly perverse, silly and nonsensical and seems intended to be seen while under the influence of a mind-altering substance.
But it made me laugh righteously.
“Highness” follows the exploits of the bratty, emotionally stunted prince Thadeous, played by Danny McBride (TV’s “Eastbound and Down”; “Tropic Thunder”). He’s been pampered, smoking bud and chasing women with his squire (Rasmus Hardiker) while his older brother Fabious (James Franco) gets the glory, going on quests and prepping himself for a run at his father’s throne when the time comes.
Fabious returns from a quest with his true love, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), whom he just rescued from the clutches of the evil magician Leezar (Justin Theroux). But when Leezar steals her back, with the plot of … er, coupling with Belladonna during the convergence of two moons, Fabious and Thadeous must go on another quest to rescue her. To defeat Leezar, the brothers and their entourage must locate a magical sword made from the horn of a unicorn.
Along the way, they meet up with Isabel (Natalie Portman), a warrior woman who has her own business with Leezar. If you want any clue as to the ridiculousness of this film, Portman serves as McBride’s love interest. Think about that for a minute.
Along the way, there are adventures with evil wizards, naked women, a guy who dips his hand in yellow goo and creates a giant snake monster, amorous minotaurs (yes, you read that right) and all the chronic you can handle.
Let me put it this way: With as much smoking as is going on, that title isn’t just referring to royalty.
McBride certainly has his own odd sense of humor and plays much the same character he does in other films — a cocky loser who can’t stop pounding his own chest even as it’s obvious what a blowhard he is. Franco’s Fabious is a bubble-headed, swashbuckling blue-blood who still unconditionally loves his ne’er-do-well brother.
The supporting cast is surprisingly strong, with Toby Jones (“Infamous”), Charles Dance (“Gosford Park”) and Damian Lewis (TV’s “Life”) rounding out the principals.
Don’t go into this film expecting broad, sanitized comedy, although there is some of that. Prepare instead to be peppered with penis gags and have all manner of appendages, drugs and bodily fluids thrust into your face — figuratively speaking, of course.
To be honest, much of the tawdriness is in the dialogue, where everyone speaks the stilted sort of formal English with a lot of “thous,” few contractions and perpetually changing word order, but also mixes in a lot of today’s slang — including liberal use of certain words that begin with the letters “F,” “D,” “C,” “M” and “S.” But let me assure you this film is certainly not brought to you by Sesame Street.
The action scenes are well staged, although the fighting is, in a sense, poorly choreographed on purpose. There’s a certain sense of self-awareness to the film, with the prevailing undercurrent being that McBride and company are spoofing the nonsensical armor-and-sword films of yesteryear. They might as well be looking into the camera saying, “Yes, I’m doing this just to get some of your money.”
The film certainly carries an air of just being as abhorrently disgusting as the MPAA will allow (and some of the gags push the bounds of even the R rating), and I’ll admit many times I was laughing not at the humor in the scene, but at the brass pair Green and McBride (who co-wrote) display.
But still, the jokes that hit are enough to prevent “Highness” from going up in smoke.