Anything can happen in show business, a truism proven by the considerable success of Danny McBride. Is this man really ready to headline a $50 million action comedy?
It’s hard not to sound vindictive when talking about well-compensated comic actors you don’t find amusing—amusing enough, at least. In Your Highness, an exhaustingly pushy, phallocentric and witlessly smutty spoof of early ’80s medieval fantasies such as Krull and The Beastmaster, McBride plays the weed-smoking younger brother of a heroic Galahad figure portrayed by James Franco. Their quest involves the vanquishing of their kingdom’s archenemy, a prematurely graying wizard played by Justin Theroux, and the recovery of the Franco character’s squeeze-in-distress, played by Zooey Deschanel. Natalie Portman is the boys’ fierce yet babesome partner in questing. Any two good-looking women, starting with the Beastmaster-era Tanya Roberts and ending with whoever is currently on duty down at the Twisted Kilt, could offer what’s required of Portman and Deschanel here, in this off-campus frat house disguised as a movie.
The script, which McBride wrote with his Eastbound & Down series co-creator Ben Best, has two or three ideas—more like wishes. First wish: It’ll be a riot every time a sentence containing Olde English “these” and “thous” and “thines” ends with a reference to either anal rape or oral sex or getting baked.
Second: It’ll be mind-blowing when the gore levels suddenly skyrocket to 11 and the comedy’s violence/slapstick mixture goes nuts, more akin to a George A. Romero zombie picture than a sword-’n-sorcery shlepic. Director David Gordon Green’s previous collaboration with McBride and Franco, Pineapple Express, had the advantage of an exuberant first half, generating enough comic goodwill to mitigate the sour nastiness of the second. No such trade-off here. Most of Your Highness stinks, and its reliance on noisy digital effects stinks on top of it. When charismatic scene-stealers on the order of Theroux and Deschanel can’t come up with much, you know they’re up against it. Franco has his moments. McBride, who modulated his one-note nitwit yahoo act nicely in Pineapple Express and Up in the Air, does not.
Your Highness (R) ★☆☆☆☆