It’s campy, vulgar and absurd, but Your Highness – with its blend of Monty Python-esque comedy, grossly exaggerated Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) archetypes, and near ludicrous amounts of crass humor – is likely King of the Hill in this season’s geek flicks.
Directed by David Gordon Green (of Pineapple Express fame), and co-written by Danny McBride (also of Pineapple Express fame), this period comedy is an articulate romp through fantasy land that possesses a whole lot more depth than it’s initial presentation lets on.
It’s a clever subversion of Campbell’s monomyth, and as any fantasy fan worth his tropes would soon discover, an homage to everything sword & sorcery.
McBride plays Thadeous, a prince of the kingdom of Mourne. He’s a slovenly horn dog, a coward, and the polar opposite of Fabious, his dashing, golden boy brother (played by James Franco).
The ne’er-do-well’s something of a disgrace to his father, the good king Thallious, but he’s forced to man up when the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux) comes calling and spirits away ditzy Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), Fabious’s bride-to-be.
The two brothers embark on a quest to save Belladonna, and by association the kingdom, from Leezar’s evil, facing all manner of peril, including amazons, a hydra, and a minotaur. Along the way, they pick up Isabel (Natalie Portman) – a crazy warrior woman with an axe to grind – and after numerous trials and tribulations, Thadeous grows a pair and goes from leading chump to leading man.
It’s evident that the script was Your Highness’s strongest suit. The lines are tongue-in-cheek, and they come fast and loose, irreverently satirizing anything and everything about the genre. Simply put, nothing is sacred here.
That, coupled with the cast’s over-the-top presentation and hammy acting, lent further credence to the entire point of the movie – the director’s and writers’ aim was solely to entertain, and it does so without any pretensions or sensitivities.
McBride was every bit as goofy as he was offensive in his portrayal of Thadeous, while Franco’s Fabious oozed honest-to-goodness (and thus idiot) charm. Rasmus Hardiker, who played Thadeous’s spoony bard sidekick Courtney, proved surprisingly versatile, while Natalie Portman sizzled the screen with her intensity and delivery. She’s downright bloodthirsty, and doesn’t even blanch when she describes how she’d kill the ones that wronged her, and “wear their flesh as capes”.
In addition to it’s slap dash toilet humor, herpderp moments and implied homo-eroticism, the movie’s also full of geek references and Easter eggs.
Comic book lovers will notice the similarities between tubby mid boss Marteetee and the X-Men villain Mojo (as well as his champion’s similarity to X-Men’s Longshot), while the unnamed Barbarian in a later scene is an obvious parody of Robert E. Howard’s Conan.
There’s even a bunch of samurai in there, and Boremont’s metal hand, missing a convenient finger joint, sports a wrist blade a la Assassin’s Creed.
Ultimately, if you watch the movie closely and carefully enough, its true target audience soon becomes apparent.
Yes, it’s a movie by geeks. For geeks. And that, my friends, is Your Highness’s crowning achievement.
The critics and their highbrow sophistry be damned. Go watch this movie.
Your Highness demands it.