08 April 2011

Your Highness

From left, Natalie Portman, Danny McBride, James Franco and Zooey Deschanel are shown in a scene from "Your Highness."
"Your Highness" feels like a live-action version of a really bad game of Dungeons & Dragons.

Or maybe something director David Gordon Green cooked up with actors Danny McBride and James Franco as they got a little too into character on the set of their 2008 stoner comedy "Pineapple Express."

Maybe "Your Highness" plays better if you're in a similar state of mind. I wouldn't know.

This is a comedy without a whisper of wit. There are no punchlines, no jokes—not even failed ones. Every pitiful attempt at humor is nothing more than the insertion of modern vulgarity in its medieval fantasy setting. Why waste time and thought trying to be clever when you can simply utter a four-letter word?

As the lead actor and co-writer (along with his "Eastbound & Down" collaborator, Ben Best), I place most of the blame on McBride. He is Thadeous, the lazy, jealous, younger brother of Fabious (Franco), a famed adventurer who is in line for the throne of the Kingdom of Morn. When Fabious's virginal bride-to-be (Zooey Deschanel) is taken by the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux), Thadeous reluctantly joins his brother on a quest to rescue her.

Along the way, they fall in with the fiercely independent and driven warrior Isabel (Natalie Portman), whose personal quest coincides with their own.

I know several people who all but worship at the altar of "Eastbound & Down," McBride's baseball comedy series for HBO. Since I've never watched it, I can judge McBride only on what I've seen from him in the movies. Based on my relatively small sample, I cannot grasp what the appeal is. Thadeous is the typical McBride character: obnoxious, crude, mean and not funny.

Nothing turns me off from a movie quicker than mean-spirited humor, and "Your Highness" overflows with it. That tone seeps into everything, to the point where it seems like no one is having even a hint of fun—certainly not Franco, who is as lifeless here as he was hosting the Academy Awards, or Portman, who can be great (see "Black Swan," which won her a much-deserved Oscar), but tends to perform to the level of her material (see "No Strings Attached" as a recent example).

"Your Highness" is a movie without a single redeeming quality. And I'm not alone in my displeasure—the audience with whom I saw it was silent throughout its entire running time.

Who could have possibly thought any of this is funny?

Greg's Grade: F

(Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity, violence and some drug use. 102 minutes.)

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