Ed Whitfield writes for Bleeding Cool:
David Gordon Green, the director of Pineapple Express, has reunited that film’s James Franco and Danny McBride for this fantasy take on their stoner shtick. Set in the kind of magic kingdom where Uncle Walt would touch children rather than entertain them, it’s an unashamedly puerile take on the Arthurian quest; a fairytale written by Jay and Silent Bob.
Wallowing in a mire of sexual retardation and knowing stupidity, its calling card is the wholesale adoption of adolescent male preoccupations. Fairy tales are characteristically wholesome affairs, imbued with simple two-tone morality, personified in heroic and wicked characters. The land of Your Highness mines plenty of laughs from adopting this iconography and adding frat house libidos. This is a land of gynaecological obsession, bare breasts, paedophilic wizards and Minotaur cock.
Ye Olde English formality is retired in favour of the modern American vernacular, to sporadically amusing effect. Yet once the idiomatic cat has pounced out of the bag and started to claw at your crotch there are few surprises, which is a bind for the filmmakers because it’s the colloquial chat in the mythological setting that props up many of the jokes. Nevertheless it’s hard to keep a straight face when a faux serious Natalie Portman delivers lines like, “It’s been burning in my beaver” – that’s her desire for revenge, incidentally – or McBride’s inner monologue intruding on his metaphor to produce, “it’s the cold air licking your tits”.
The word fuck appears so many times it’s a minor miracle it hasn’t sued for the lack of a cast credit.
As with any man-child movie there are problems. The desired demographic of straight fourteen year old boys will recognise all the targets – freaks, homosexuals, girls, and will be more at ease than their mature counterparts at the wilful conflation of gayness and paedophilia, or the manner in which Damian Lewis’ knight is made ridiculous with a declaration of love toward another man.
However, before anyone gets consumed by self-righteous indignation, flaunting their half-headed understanding of political correctness, Your Highness is an equal opportunities jester. It undercuts the macho heroism that populates the genre, mocking the masculinity of the questheads as well as the vulnerability of fems that stalk these fairytale lands. Is this quite enough to offset the thinly veiled homophobia or the objectification of vaginated cast members? No, but at least the film has a great time in its unreconstructed world and that sense of fun is contagious.
The big-budget fantasy comedy is a tough beast to handle, which may explain why it’s seldom attempted. Here it all gels nicely. Green handles the movie’s action sequences with some aplomb, keeping the histrionics up tempo and kinetic. He’s equally adept at handling the movie’s top notch visual effects that work in service to the story rather than overwhelming it. We’re at the Ghostbusters end of the scale, as opposed to the opposite extreme, sometimes known as Big Trouble in Little China.
Ultimately Your Highness has enough tongue in cheek glibness to tickle the chin of the sourest sourpuss. Sometimes the script is too reliant on these anachronistic characters simply being anachronistic, and in such moments the movie loses some of its momentum but otherwise it is, surprisingly for a film as lewd and rude as this one, a good natured romp; possibly the flick that will forever change your mind about fish finger, pea and milkshake banquets – remember I told you.
Three and half stars out of five (for those that simply must have a star rating)
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