14 April 2011

YOUR HIGHNESS- Review

Your Highness is a stoner comedy set in a similar realm to The Princess Bride, as the slacker prince Thadeous is press-ganged into a quest by his more princely brother, Fabious. His virgin bride-to-be has been kidnapped by a sorcerer who has wicked intentions and a prophecy to fulfil, and Fabious needs his brother on-side in order to win the day. They begin a quest that pits them against treachery, minotaurs and a paedophilic Muppet.

In the last couple of months, we've seen both an exception and an apotheosis of one cinematic rule- big budgets are anathema to comedy. The issue isn't that money isn't funny, and there are certainly more exceptions to this rule if you look further back, but when you put the $50 million budget of Your Highness on the table, the hilarity is going to be tempered by accountants who don't get the joke.

Happily, Your Highness is a far cry from mirthlessness, but it never quite soars to the heights its premise would suggest. Part of the problem for me was co-writer and star Danny McBride, whose supporting performances I have enjoyed. I'm less convinced by him as a leading man, even one as feckless as Prince Thadeous. He knows how to put a good inflection on words like "fuck" and "bugger", but the moment the film begins to fall back on that gag is when things decline a little.

Truthfully, the film is clearly at its best when poking fun at affably rubbish 80s fantasy films like Clash of the Titans and Labyrinth, and it sits far less comfortably when pushing the stoner comedy element beyond its limit. Steve Jablonsky's score, which sounds like Howard Shore with a synthesiser, should be the icing on the cake, but because the cake has got pot in it, it feels easily distracted from the more on-the-nose jokes involving mechanical birds, horny minotaurs and yes, that pitch-perfect soundtrack.

For others, the appeal will lie more in the starry cast. James Franco continues to be a disgustingly talented bastard who raised more than a few belly laughs from my direction, but you also have Natalie Portman, coming off the back of both the acclaim and the controversy around Black Swan. No matter what that dance double says, she's doing at least 80% of her own comedy in this one, and it shows. Her delivery is like someone telling you a joke they heard from someone else, with the expectation you'll laugh without really understanding why. But hey- being tentative is better than the manic expression she wore in No Strings Attached.

I found the ever-adorable and occasionally-very-sexy Zooey Deschanel more enjoyable- I was always more into her Trillian than Portman's Padme, and it's Deschanel who comes off better even though Portman has had three films' worth of experience in the befuddled fantasy warrior princess role. In supporting roles, Rasmus Hardiker and Justin Theroux make a big impression, with the former making a great Baldrick surrogate and the latter being a deliciously camp antagonist. But all seems obscured by the enormity of the special effects, and the expense really shouldn't overtake the comedy.

Your Highness is a big film trying to squeeze into skinny jeans, and the resultant muffin-top isn't as funny as the filmmakers would hope. That said, it raised enough laughs from me even in its more repetitive moments for me to recommend it, especially if you were already interested by the trailers and TV spots. It doesn't always hit the target, but it mostly hits the tree. It remains difficult to escape the feeling that it could have been something really special as a niche film rather than the special effects extravaganza it lapses into at times.

Your Highness is now playing in selected cinemas nationwide.
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If you've seen Your Highness, why not share your comments below?

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

1 comment:

NerdyRachelMay said...

Skinny Jeans analogy is highly amusing :-)
FYI I will not be seeing this film, I’m saving my pennies for ‘Thor’!