“Your Highness” is about as fun as a bag of schwag and an episode of Starz’s “Camelot”
Pot can make any movie better. Don’t forget, though, that you actually have to smoke the pot to achieve these results. Just watching a bunch of scenes where characters smoke pot won’t do it. This is a common mistake that Universal’s marketing minions might just be banking on with Your Highness, a film that beckons to current and former stoners like an extra-large tub of Chubby Hubby ice cream and an ’89 Grateful Dead bootleg (“Hampton, dude! They broke out ‘Dark Star’ that night!”). A tale of medieval princes who toke from jewel-encrusted 6-foot bongs, then slice up Minotaurs with their steely knives? Why, that sounds almost as good as the average plot of an epic Tenacious D jam! Sign me up!
But sadly, while current stoners will have the good sense to arrive at Your Highness pre-baked (like those plucky gentlemen I spied in the parking lot after my viewing, shrouded in a promisingly thick cloud of smoke), a sad old person like me can become confused into believing that watching other people get high and ramble incoherently might be just as good as getting high myself. Strong though nostalgia may be, it doesn’t quite compare to good weed. Or, if you prefer: A joint in the hand is worth 200 on the big screen.
But what’s truly surprising – not just surprising but utterly lamentable, really – is that, despite its title, Your Highness features very little a) punchy madness, b) incoherent rambling, c) absurd asides, d) pointless digressions, e) general-purpose trippiness, f) actual jokes, or even f) pot smoking. Yes, you could safely assume that a film featuring Danny McBride as a soft, awkward, ne’er-do-well prince who lays about, puffing on a medieval pipe all day, might just embrace an overall stonery tone or ambience. But Your Highness stubbornly rejects all giddy weirdness and bizarre leaps into the abyss (or even scenes where a character sucks in too much smoke and then coughs for 5 minutes — which, to a stoner, are just as good). For what? A steady flow of really bad dick jokes. So look not to Your Highness for the delirious oddness of, say Clerks, or Dazed and Confused or The Three Amigos. Aside from one perverted, hookah-toking wizard, this film is about as unimaginative as any pot-themed movie has ever been. In fact, your average room full of semi-confused, not-incredibly-bright stoners could invent a movie fifteen times more fanciful, exciting and unpredictable than Your Highness, and all they’d ask for in return is an extra-large Hawaiian pizza.
The trouble begins with Thadeous, McBride’s prince, who obviously demands some of the whimsical self-delusion of Austin Powers to really spark. This is a medieval fantasy, after all, why not get a little erratic and freaky? Instead, McBride offers up the same old hapless-manchild routine we’ve seen fifty million times before, in which a pathetic, pouting middle-aged dude flails and grumbles and kicks medieval cans in frustration. Though not utterly charmless, McBride’s subtle sulking feels totally flat here. How could our binger-happy hero be quite so colorless and crestfallen? Should we really have to coach the star of a pot fantasy on how to inhale?
In fact, the only person onscreen who actually seems all that high is James Franco, who plays McBride’s handsome, adventurous, sober older brother. Truth be told, Franco appears to have smoked an enormous bong-load before every single scene. He looks a little wan, his eyes are all squinty, and he seems to relish each and every moment, delivering his lines with the half-smirk of a snide jester – more specifically, a snide jester with a big bag of pot waiting for him in his trailer. Indeed, Franco looks exactly the same in Your Highness as he does in this recent “Colbert Report” appearance – you know, the one where he admits to Stephen Colbert that he was smoking weed backstage before he came on? And while it’s vaguely enjoyable to speculate how high Franco must be in this film, it will only make you long that much more for some Cannabis to make all of these half-amusing moments add up to more than a queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach.
After Franco’s prince Fabious falls in love with Zooey Deschanel’s virgin hottie Belladonna, he looks on in agony as she’s swept away by evil magical dude Leezar (Justin Theroux), who plans to take her virginity when the two moons meet. When Belladonna asks of Leezar’s manhood, “How do you know it will work?” Leezar replies, “Because I’ve tested it. And if your vagina is anything like my hand, there should be no problem.”
This is, quite seriously, one of the better jokes in Your Highness. The only other solid joke that’s not in the trailer, in fact, is the repeated reference to Leezar’s big night with Belladonna as “The Fuckening!” I’d be hesitant to offer up the only examples of real humor here, except that in this case, I consider it a public service to save you $8 and that 1 hour and 42 minutes of your life that you’ll never, ever get back.
So how is it even possible that Universal spent $50 million on a movie that features exactly three chuckle-inducing jokes and the plot of a “Scooby Doo” episode? I hate to be a downer, but this is the kind of movie that forces your guilty brain to consider all of the great public works and charitable efforts that could have been achieved with that money, instead of giving a few guys an excuse to wear tights and make cracks about jerking off. Shouldn’t it be a criminal act to sink that kind of money into a comedy blockbuster that’s far less funny than your average half-hour of “The Colbert Report”? (Click on the link to Franco’s “Colbert” appearance, above, to experience exponentially more laughs than those available from Your Highness.) But that’s no surprise. “Your Highness” has less laughs than most Bud Light commercials.
With growing curiosity, I went looking for some explanation for this bomb online, and found a few clues in a Your Highness set visit by Joblo.com’s Mike Sampson. “We’re not trying to make Spaceballs,” McBride told Sampson. “We’re trying to make a fantasy movie for real that just happens to be funny.”
Director David Gordon Green added, “I would debate as to whether it’s approached as a comedy at all. There’s no jokes in this movie, there’s just a bunch of funny shit that happens.”
A note to McBride and Gordon Green: Yours is no more a “fantasy movie for real” than my dog is a high-level alien ambassador from the planet Zambutron. Next time, consider replacing “funny shit that happens” with actual jokes. Because we need a rewarmed medieval manchild movie like we need an old bag of shake and last week’s rerun of Starz’s “Camelot.” In other words, next time? You should try to make Spaceballs.