Director David Gordon Green’s film “Your Highness” has turned out to be quite a polarizing feature. For instance, it has already prompted many critics, such as Salon.com writer Andrew O’Hehir, to contemplate whether or not it is one of the worst films ever made.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are writers such as pop culture site Bada– Digest’s Devin Faraci, who gives the film credit for being a loving homage to 1980s fantasy films. Faraci goes as far as to say that “what (‘Your Highness’) forfeits in guffaws it makes up in serious fantasy chops.”
The fact is that “Your Highness” is a film that plays with your expectations, and some audiences don’t like being played with. Within the opening scenes of the film we are quickly introduced to a fantasy world in which witches and evil cults walk side-by-side with medieval knights.
Then we see “Eastbound & Down” star Danny McBride’s character Thadeous, who’s just escaped from being executed at the hand of an angry elf king, and it’s clear that the film is mixing period drama style with creatures and situations straight out of fantasy worlds in films such as “Lord of the Rings” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.”
This may lead many to wonder, “What kind of film is ‘Your Highness’?” Well, it certainly isn’t a genre spoof comedy in the vein of the atrocious “Meet the Spartans,” though it also isn’t a straightforward comedy either.
It is packed full of the immature humor that made Green’s first comedy “Pineapple Express” a hit, but it also swings its mighty sword in hopes of being the purposefully funny version of unintentionally hilarious ‘80s fantasy films such as “The Beastmaster” and “Krull.”
This all works for the film because everyone in the cast, from McBride to Academy Award-winning “Black Swan” actress Natalie Portman, is having fun with the material. The screenplay, co-written by McBride and Ben Best creates plenty of imaginative fantasy scenarios for its characters to act within.
Along with McBride and Portman, the cast includes “127 Hours” star James Franco, “(500) Days of Summer” actress Zooey Deschanel, cult actor Justin Theroux and many more familiar faces that bring an unmatched pedigree for a type of film that normally wouldn’t require it.
Many of the most exciting moments of the film are when Green allows his imagination to run wild. A particular battle scene involving a multiple-headed reptilian creature who’s literally controlled by the hand of actor John Ficker, who plays the evil but entertaining Marteetee, is a standout moment.
The only real problems the film experiences are from the improvisational comedic styling of McBride. For most of the first half of the film McBride seems to lazily dispense four-letter expletives as if simply to say, “Isn’t it crazy that I am swearing in a film like this?”
McBride, like his comedic peers Will Ferrell and “Knocked Up” actor Seth Rogen, is known for his ability to improvise entire comedic riffs on the spot, but instantaneous humor doesn’t always make for gut-busting laughs. After about an hour of McBride’s shtick, it begins to become rather obnoxious.
McBride may be a talented writer and rather funny individual, but the characters he plays are usually one note and, unfortunately, he may not have the acting prowess necessary to give them more dimensions.
Many critics have attacked the film for “being a mess,” but perhaps they simply just can’t appreciate what McBride and Green have done here, and that’s alright.
This is a film that’s made for those who grew up watching director Terry Gilliam’s “Time Bandits” or even “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen,” and that is certainly not a large percentage of the people who will be going to see it.
If you manage your expectations accordingly, then there is a lot of fun to be had with “Your Highness.”