Before Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy heralded a resurgence of the ‘fantasy quest’ movie, this much-derided genre enjoyed a kind of golden age in the late 1980s, when Labyrinth, The Princess Bride and Willow captured the imaginations of thousands of young moviegoers. Danny McBride and David Gordon Green, respectively writer/star and director of Your Highness, were clearly front and centre in that bewitched audience, and in its best moments this film recaptures a hint of the magical, adventurous power that those films possessed. Unfortunately that is the only positive thing to be said about Your Highness, which is otherwise a vulgar, unoriginal, soulless, stupid folly, featuring a squandered cast of such quality that their involvement and co-operation must surely have been secured by means of dark magic.
McBride, recognisable from memorable bit-parts in Due Date, Up in the Air and Gordon Green’s previous film, stoner-comedy Pineapple Express, here steps up to leading-man duties as Prince Thadeous, the slovenly brother of the kingdom’s favourite warrior Prince Fabeous (James Franco, literally looking as if he could fall asleep any moment). When Fabeous’ bride-to-be Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel, vacant) is kidnapped by the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux, actually quite funny), the King (Charles Dance, bored) sends the brothers off to rescue Belladonna and rid the kingdom of Leezar forever. Along the way they are first saved then joined by a mysterious female warrior (Natalie Portman, rigid) whose quest becomes entwined with theirs.
If you think the plot sounds slapdash, just wait until you hear what passes for dialogue. There’s barely a line uttered in Your Highness that doesn’t contain either the word ‘fuck’, a mention of genitalia or some reference to sex. Vulgarity is substituted for wit, and it’s conclusively not funny. Evidently, McBride and Gordon Green have forgotten that a key element of those aforementioned films’ success was their innocence, an epithet that emphatically does not apply to Your Highness. For Gordon Green, who began his career with the excellent character studies George Washington and All The Real Girls, this is surely as low as he can go. His Lowness, you might say.
Your Highness is out now on general release. This review first published at list.co.uk.