Usually, the title of a movie indicates the direction the film will follow. Sometimes these titles lead us astray. Such is the case for David Gordon Green’s new film “Your Highness,” starring Danny McBride, James Franco and Natalie Portman.
On Friday April, 1 UCSB hosted the world premiere to the medieval-themed movie at Pollock Theater. Students lucky enough to get their tickets ahead of time attended in hopes of seeing a hilarious new stoner film. What they got instead was a mediocre medieval spoof.
“Your Highness” is about two princes — Thadeous (McBride) and Fabious (Franco) — in competition for the crown. Upon Fabious’ arrival with his new bride, the kingdom puts on a wedding only to have it interrupted by the evil warlord Leezar (Justin Theroux), who kidnaps Fabious’ bride. The king orders his two sons to voyage on a quest for her safe return and to kill Leezar.
Thadeous, the lazy stoner of the two, tags along as the brothers trek to Leezar’s lair. Along the way they encounter a Great Wise Wizard, naked forest women, a horny Minotaur and Natalie Portman.
I had high hopes for a solid stoner comedy — the same quality as “Pineapple Express” even. With McBride and Franco on board, I figured they’d do the movie justice regardless of its silly premise. Instead, “Your Highness” is a passing comedy with few stoner references.
What happened? I mean sure, McBride and Franco delivered hilarious performances. The entire movie depended on their presence — whenever they weren’t onscreen, the story lagged and other characters were simply not funny. The star power Franco and McBride share carries the weight of the movie — the supporting cast is one-dimensional, rigid and even annoying in their acting. Natalie Portman delivered poorly and didn’t bring a chuckle to my cold heart. She looked incredible though; I’ll give her that much.
Like I mentioned, “Your Highness” is not really a stoner film. There are probably three scenes directly referencing marijuana, none of which are amusing beyond that premise. The funniest part of the movie by far is near the beginning, when Thadeous and his entourage of medieval potheads smoke and chase a flock of sheep through a wide meadow dressed in royal clothing and wigs. That scene had me laughing the hardest, which says a lot about the quality of the writing in general.
McBride co-wrote the script, and while Danny McBride is often hilarious, his jokes were hit-or-miss on screen. Leaning on a wide range of gross-out tactics rather than visual and dialogic wit, “Your Highness” left me apathetic. I guess it’s not a movie to be taken so seriously, but still, I would have enjoyed more and better jokes. The premise of medieval stoners could have been executed much better, but David Gordon Green seemed satisfied to leave it at a mundane level. While an admirable effort, “Your Highness” doesn’t go as high as you’d like it to. I suggest a few more rips, and then back to the drawing board.