Wait. What? Do you mean David Gordon Green, the director behind films like George Washington and All the Real Girls and Undertow, is the person responsible for Your Highness? How does that even happen? It’s one thing to say that Hollywood scoops up indie filmmakers, chews them up, and spits out McG and Brett Ratner clones, which absolutely happens. But that’s on a whole ‘nother level compared to what it has done to Green, the edgy, arty poster boy for reflective, solemn character studies that peel the veneer away from the American mythos. Someone took the most glorious bottle of vintage champagne and whipped up Tang mimosas. Someone made a sloppy joe with the meat of the last dodo. I thought Green’s last foray into stoner comedy, the abysmal Pineapple Express, was a nightmare, but that was a masterpiece of wit and nuance compared to Your Highness.
There is no point to this unforgivable excuse for a comedy, except, obviously, for Danny McBride to make his buddies (director Green, co-star James Franco) chortle over pot jokes and at least pretend to get himself laid. “Screenwriter” McBride cast himself here as the nominal hero who, as the film opens, is under threat of death for having had sex with another man’s wife, an ugly amalgam of bullshit that indulges not only the notion of women as men’s property, but also McBride’s own dubious irresistibility. Later on in the film, even the gorgeous kick-ass Amazonian warrior played by Natalie Portman totally wants to do him.
In between sexual encounters, McBride’s idiot dork Thadeous, lesser prince of some pseudo-medieval realm, will go a-questing with his fabulous brother, heir-to-the-throne Fabious (Franco) in order to prevent Fabious’ bride-to-be, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), from getting raped by the wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux) as part of some magical ceremony that doesn’t really seem to be about anything other than, you know, magically sanctioned rape.
But whatever. I’m just a hairy-legged feminazi with no sense of humor. Why can’t I just chillax? Can’t I see that this is all taking place on a planet with two moons, so it’s not Earth, so it’s totally fantasy, so it’s entirely immune to criticism?
If you think dwarves are by nature hilarious, Teh Gay is something to fear, “slut” is a fantastic compliment for a woman one finds attractive, kicks to the crotch are awesome, tits are even more awesome, and a quest built around the notion that a woman’s virginity is supernaturally enchanted but a woman who has been raped is ruined, this is the flick for you. Just call rape “the fuckening” and it’s all good. Hell, it’s suddenly sidesplitting. Or not. Your mileage may vary inversely with your age, IQ, and degree of enlightenment. Oh, and you know how I said McBride is the screenwriter (co-credited with Ben Best)? Apparently, almost all of the dialogue is actually improvised — there was no script on set. There was only McBride tossing out off-the-cuff yucks, the kind of material brilliant wags can just invent on a dime without even having to think about it, they’re just that good. Like when McBride slings a comeback to some gobbledygook verilys and forsooths by rolling his eyes and moaning, “Oh, fuck.” Sheer genius.
If only the rest of Your Highness were as droll. Though McBride’s whine of “This quest sucks” is good, too: It’s funny cuz it’s true.