Your Highness

Your Highness


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

After this year's Oscars you might expect a film starring James Franco and Natalie Portman to be hot property. Someone certainly hoped so - this one has been sitting on the shelf for a few years and before that stroke of luck it must have seemed unsellable. It's still pretty much unwatchable. Only one thing really stands in its favour, and that's the hype from this distributors. Often hype damages a film by raising our expectations only for them to be cruelly dashed. In this case I actually expected to see something worse, so I was relieved to discover it's not the most annoying or obnoxious film of the year, just a close contender.

The first thing you should be aware of is that Franco and Portman are not the leads. That dubious honour falls to Danny McBride, who also co-wrote and clearly fancied it as a star-making vehicle for himself, poor lamb. He's the younger brother of Franco's heroic heir to a kingdom, and his comedy schtick is that he struggles to summon up much heroic ability himself, preferring to get drunk, smoke weed, and take advantage of the serving women. When his brother's bride-to-be is kidnapped by an evil warlock bent on fulfilling a dread prophecy, his father insists that he be part of the rescue party. Unfortunately the quest doesn't go to plan (do they ever?) and our heroes are forced to endure assorted extra perils on the way to their goal, with the compensation of meeting Natalie Portman's enigmatic warrior, who of course steals his heart.

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So far this is the stuff of many a lame fantasy movie, and indeed the story sticks so faithfully to familiar plotlines that it's hard to call it a spoof; it's too dependent on that which it seeks to mock. Its attempts to devise a character of its own are largely built around the inclusion of as much toilet humour as possible, though mercifully it doesn't aim for out and out whackiness. Occasionally the jokes work, but for the most part it's like spending two hours with a six-year-old who has just learned a new naughty word.

It also tries to critique established genre tropes and is at least successful in calling attention to the fetishisation of rape in many fantasy plots, navigating the humour in this area better than you might expect, if you consider such humour appropriate at all. There are a lot of mysogynistic (and transphobic and borderline homophobic) views expressed but they rarely come from characters whose sophistication we are supposed to admire and they are fairly well countered by the presence of characters who defy stereotypes. That said, they still don't manage to make the story interesting. They merely remind us that this sort of territory has been better explored in the past.

McBride is at least a confident lead, deadpanning his lines rather than actively cringing with embarrassment as one expects most actors would have done, but in charisma terms he's outclassed even by his rarely glimpsed pet lizard. Franco does a good job of creating a character like a cross between Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride and Graham Norton's tambourine-thumping priest from Father Ted; he's endlessly enthusiastic and super good at everything yet innocent enough to remain likeable. Portman delivers a by-numbers performance that is functional enough but little more; we certainly never get to see how her character develops an interest in the hero. Zooey Deschanel mugs hideously as the kidnapped bride. Justin Theroux seems to be aiming for a Ricky Gervais style warlock, which is even less successful than it looks when written down.

With all these actors pulling in different directions, there was never much chance of success. Add to this a 15 certificate which will exclude most of those likely to put up the money for some naked breasts and penis jokes, and what you're left with is a large flightless bird looking like it wishes it was already Christmas. This is worse than Hawk The Slayer. One wonders if the final caption - 'Thy End' - is meant as a tribute to those audience members who have already slit their wrists.

Reviewed on: 07 Apr 2011
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A reluctant knight accompanies his brother on a quest to save the latter's fiancee, who has been kidnapped by an evil warlock.
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Director: David Gordon Green

Writer: Danny McBride, Ben Best

Starring: Danny McBride, James Franco, Rasmus Hardiker, Natalie Portman, Toby Jones, Justin Theroux, Zooey Deschanel, Charles Dance, Damian Lewis

Year: 2011

Runtime: 102 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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