I’ll admit that penises are pretty funny – perhaps the funniest of all of God’s plumbing inventions – but even a penis needs a few good jokes if it’s going to be the focus of a feature-length comedy.
Your Highness is a series of d*@k jokes that are all a bit short in the joke department. More often than not, the characters simply reference a penis (sometimes they switch it up and refer to breasts or pot) and wait for a laugh. There’s rarely a gag involved or a punch line attached, just an acknowledgement that penises, breasts and marijuana exist. Beavis and Butt-Head would have found it hilarious. (“Wanker. Heh heh.”)
The movie is the brainchild of Danny McBride, who stars and wrote the script with regular collaborator Ben Best. Their brand of self-loathing comedy has worked before (The Foot Fist Way), but Your Highness is lazy and witless. McBride plays Prince Thadeous, the pothead brother of dashing Prince Fabious (James Franco). When Fabious’ bride-to-be (Zooey Deschanel) is kidnapped by a malicious warlock (Justin Theroux), Thadeous reluctantly joins his brother on a quest to rescue her, with the help of a mysterious female warrior (Natalie Portman) they encounter along the way.
That’s quite a cast, though they’re not talented enough to enliven the empty script. Deschanel and Theroux in particular work overtime, and their odd line readings provide some of the films few genuine laughs. Other than that it’s a bunch of generic fantasy action (played entirely straight) and McBride giggling about naughty bits.
Your Highness also marks a dispiriting low point in the once-promising career of director David Gordon Green. Formerly known for lyrical, indie tone poems (All the Real Girls, Undertow), Green last made the mildly amusing pot comedy Pineapple Express. Your Highness suggests that wasn’t an anomaly, but rather the start of a new career direction. I suppose it’s his prerogative if he wants to spend his time on silly comedies, I just wish they were funny ones.
To be fair, near the end, Your Highness rouses itself to come up with what is a truly unique variation on body-part humor. Searching for an all-powerful sword hidden in a maze, Thadeous and his companions come face to face with an angry – and aroused – minotaur. The movie at least reaches a level of comic absurdity here, but then again, consider what it says about the film as a whole. The highlight of Your Highness is a minotaur d*@k joke.