Monday, April 11, 2011

Your Highness

To say that the critics have been unkind to Your Highness, is something of an understatement. Let us just say that Zack Snyder may no longer be feeling quite so bad about those Sucker Punch reviews. Roger Ebert stopped just short of wailing “Absalom Oh Absalom!” and rending his clothes.

It’s Understandable why. While Green’s last stoner comedy Pineapple Express at least had the courtesy to throw in a few lyrical interludes to make it identifiable to a David Gordon Greene film, Your Highness makes no such concessions. It’s like watching the class Valedictorian fart the national anthem for his commencement speech. Most of those assembled just watched aghast, while a few can’t help but laugh.

I have to admit that I was one of the ones who laughed, even though I knew I’d hate myself in the morning. Sometimes in genuine amusement, sometimes in disbelief, but as laughter is the only real review possible of a comedy I have to report it.

I think the trick to Your Highness, is its specificity. It doesn’t simply spoof fantasy tropes. It spoofs a very certain kind of pre-Lord Of The Rings, cheap, 80’s, B fantasy movie trope. Natalie Portman’s role could have been filled by Grace Jones, with very little change to the film, save the enjoyment of watching it. For those arguing that the film has no satiric target, I dare you to watch it with a double feature with Conan Destroyer, with the warning that when it is over you might not like movies anymore. Your Highness looks exactly like one of those cheap movies given a Star Wars: Special Editions style make over to fit in some obvious but perversely expensive looking CGI (the equivalent of the one expensive matte shot each of those movies would get) and some relentlessly crude jokes. All composed with a loving care not usually seen outside of paintings on the side of vans. Pauline Kael once said that Paul Schrader’s Cat People looked like a series of album covers for records you would never want to play. Thank God she never saw Your Highness.

Yes there are those jokes too. Your Highness is the most unfiltered aggressive example of stoner humor I’ve seen since the early days of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. That particular strain of humor in which it is not merely enough to be absurd, one must be deeply unpleasant as well. It is not enough that the “Wise Old Wizard” is a cackling, muppet who smokes weed, nor is it enough that the strong inferences that he molested James Franco as a child a running gag. No the scene must end with the leads giving it a hand job. A Minotaur cannot simply appear with a huge erection, a character must wear it around their neck for the remainder of the movie. It is not enough that Justin Theroux play a creepy sexually deviant/impotent wizard, no he must be the creepiest most sexually deviant wizard in recorded history. Why simply be distasteful when you can be off putting?

Yet, everyone seems to be in on the joke. James Franco and Natalie Portman both look like two kids enjoying the most epic game of dress up in recorded history. Toby Jones in particular, well let’s just say I have no idea what must have been going through his mind at certain moments.

Your Highness is exactly what it sounds like. A great big smutty joke done at great expense both to the studio and artistic reputation. Whether such a thing has any appeal to you, is an open question.


Steve Miller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Miller said...

Thanks for reminding me this movie is out there. It's one of those films I suspect most critics don't get, because they don't have the frame of reference to understand what they're watching. I felt the same way about "Balls of Fury" and "Nacho Libre."

I'll have to make time this weekend to catch this movie.

Unknown said...

I remember seeing the first ads for this and thinking that it was headed for instant cult film status. And the wave of negative reviews and lackluster box office is a good start. I'm still curious to see it if only for all the talent involved.

Anonymous said...

I found this movie to be very well made and hilarious throughout its duration. There are really no lulls at all and where there could've been one, they threw in one of the best gross out gags of the whole movie. Acting was solid and there are many quotable lines. Destined for netflix-instant cult status.

Franco Macabro said...

I enjoyed Pineapple Express, and I was looking forward to this one...but after your review, I just dont know! I havent read any critic reviews on the net about this one...I wasnt aware it had been destroyed by them. It's too bad! Im still seeing though, gotta make up my own mind about it. Such a good cast too.

Marcus said...

I enjoyed Pineapple Express. I'm sold. Let's do this

Thomas said...

I was originally so excited for this film, but after I saw the reviews I decided to pass. But since you seemed to enjoy it in spite of the flaws, maybe I will give it a try after all.

ohad said...

this movie sucked big time, danny mcbride is a sidekick , he does not desorve a lead roll.
every 15 boaring minutes the movie come up with a fuck or shit joke,
not so funny but keaves the audions awake, there is no thought what so ever to the jokes in the movie, a ten year old child could have easily written the whole script.
natalie portman went from class B to class D performence. it is a movie without any movie, save your money ,or spend it on another movie, this is the biggest piece of shit sence bruno, starring sasha baron cohen, i am not sure who is worst.

StephenM said...

I was sort of interested in this movie before, though not really excited. But hearing a few of the gross-out jokes in your review decided it for me--not really my kind of movie. I can take gross jokes to a point, but when they're that bad and that stupid, I'll pass.

I still need to see David Gordon Greene's early stuff, though. George Washington looks amazing, and All the Real Girls looks really good. How did he end up making stuff like this again?

Bryce Wilson said...

@ Steve Miller: While I never saw Balls Of Fury, Nacho Libre was WAY sweeter natured than this.

@ JD: It may well be. But I think it really is too aggressively strange to be more than a minor cult favorite.

@ Anon: I can see it going that way. I think a lot of the movies target audience miss it on the first run which will help it build.

@ FC: Oh yeah. I would never really dissuade anyone from seeing this.

@ Marcus: Ditto.

@ Dan: Like I said man. I definitely laughed. No denying it.

@ ohad: But how do you really feel?

@ Stephen: Man I think a lot of people would like to know the answer to that question. lol. Seriously though his early work is AMAZING. Definitely check it out.