A hilariously raunchy fantasy epic in all the right ways!
**** ½ out of 5
Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity, violence and some drug use.
Article first published as Movie Review: Your Highness on Blogcritics.
Recently there’s been a particular star that’s arrived in back-to-back weekends – Russell Brand. While he may have been popping up in films as a side character, sometimes that’s exactly where one belongs. Occasionally an actor gets his foot in the door with an ultra low budget outing (“The Foot Fist Way”) and makes friends fast while still earning their keep before making it to the big leagues. This time, that man is the ultra hilarious Danny McBride and now he’s stepping up to the plate and delivering big time with his first big budget starring role in “Your Highness.”
While most may only recognize one other film on director David Gordon Green’s resume (“Pineapple Express”), the man has actually been making great feature films since 2000. Working a few of his star friends over the last decade is surely only helping his case and each film gets even more technically proficient. Now Green is bringing Danny McBride’s rip-roaring fantasy comedy epic to light with some of their friends along for the ride. With a little help from James Franco, Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel, and Justin Theroux, it’s the funniest knights in armor tale this side of Monty Python.
In “Your Highness,” we come across Thadeus (McBride) and his loyal companion, Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker) about to be hanged by the local dwarfs population. If you can’t guess what happens when a gang of dwarfs try to hang an almost six foot tall guy then the jokes on you. Making their escape through an animated credit sequence we come to learn that poor prince Thadeus is always in the shadow of his brother Fabious (Franco) and talked down to by their father, King Tallious (Charles Dance). Fabious has just returned from an adventure and has rescued his now-fiancé, Belladonna (Deschanel), from the evil clutches of Leezar (Theroux), who also happens to be a warlock.
Fabious would be honored to have Thadeus be his best man at their wedding but Thadeus would rather get stoned and chase sheep… literally. Meanwhile, at the wedding we learn that Fabious absolutely cannot sing and Leezar returns to kidnap Belladonna once again because the twin moons are headed toward each other and a virgin must be impregnated to unleash a dragon from within said virgin’s innocent womb. Now Thadeus is forced upon his first quest alongside Fabious to rescue the fair Belladonna before Leezar commences with “the fuckening” and all hell breaks loose.
With side adventures running the gamut, here’s where our band of hapless adventurers happen upon everyone and everything from a perverted Muppet-reject, the Great Old Wizard (voiced by puppeteer Mario Torres Jr) to gold thong-sporting Isabel (Portman), who may have more in common with their own quest than originally thought. There’s also the casual betrayal of Fabious’ own men, led by his best friend Boremont (Damian Lewis), and eunich Julie (Toby Jones), and a run-in with a five-fingered foe named Marteetee who knows the true meaning of a booby trap. Will Thadeus and Fabious save the day and will Thadeus finally lay down with Isabel?
Everything comes to fruition in hilarious fashion along with some special effects wizardry that shows Universal knew which film this month to let their guru’s run wild. “Hop” only wishes one of its effects looked as convincing as anything in this whole production. Kudos to McBride for bringing along his “Eastbound & Down” and “Foot Fist Way” co-writer Ben Best. These two know how to wring a laugh out of just about anything. Be it one of McBride’s scathing asides, Franco bringing back and getting full use out of the phrase, “Face!” to Thadeus sporting the world’s worst fashion accessory.
The jokes keep piling up while the story stays tried to true to the fantasy epic tale that shows the makers of the abysmal “Dungeons & Dragons” adaptation that these kinds of epics can still be done right. Thankfully there’s no Wayans’ brother afoot here, good readers. And it’s obvious that director Green completely understands that for any of this to work they have to sell the period and fantasy aspects first. If you aren’t buying into that then absolutely nothing else works. So while there may be an onslaught of accents running around the multiplexes this weekend (there’s also the boring failure that is “Arthur”) do the right thing and let “Your Highness” get medieval on your funny bone.
Photos courtesy Universal Pictures