David Gordon Green‘s Your Highness (Universal, 4.8) is so poorly written, so uninvested in genuine stoner humor (a la The Big Lebowski and Wonder Boys), and so appallingly unsuccessful that it’s a bit of a challenge to accurately describe it. But it’s definitely not funny — that you can take to the bank.
I’m not exaggerating in calling this a landmark in the annals of crapitude and dick jokes and the fine corporate art of farting in the audience’s face. It’s easily one of the worst films I’ve ever seen in my life. But I stayed to the end! And I’m almost proud of this because everything in my mind was saying “go…escape…free yourself!”
Your Highness is a mixture of a kind of 12th Century, Lord of the Rings/Robin Hood-y backdrop atmosphere, showoff CG and action scenes with eye-filling cinematography and a full-blast orchestral score, a completely moronic and non-cohesive genre-spoof story with — this is the core marketing element — unregenerate pig-slob-lameass-burp-stoner dialogue and attitudes as performed by Danny McBride, whose dirtbag prince character, Thadeous, can be seen as a kind of time-travelling emissary from degraded 21st Century culture.
Thadeous is a boorish, unrefined, masturbating, overweight slob forced by his king father (Charles Dance) to accompany his heroic, big-hearted brother Fabious (James Franco) on a quest to save Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), fiancee of Fabious, from the clutches of Leezar (Justin Theroux), a standard-issue demonic wizard who’s kidnapped her and who poses a general threat, etc. Natalie Portman is some kind of wandering samurai bow-and-arrow girl who jumps into the story in Act Two.
It’s one of those inert exercises in ironic distance — another SNL skit stretched to feature length and amplified, wide-screened and CG’ed to a fare-thee-well. “We’re just kidding, nobody’s in this stupid thing, we’re all getting paid,” etc. At best the crowd at last night’s Arclight screening was smirking and tittering now and then. There were no laughs to speak of and for damn sure no belly laughs.
Take out the oppressive action scenes and nudity titillation and production values that Universal execs probably insisted upon — the CG, costumes, eye-filling landscapes, sweeping score, etc. — and you’re left with a dopey story that’s basically about a selfish low-life swearing and dick-joking his way through a series of unconnected sketches about supernatural threats that aren’t even fake-real, and nothing that anyone (in the film or the audience) really cares about.
Question: If Theroux and his three old-witch allies have the power to throw electric flash-bolts at their adversaries and throw them against walls and knock them cold, why don’t they have the power to slice their heads off? Or change them into farm animals? Or wound them so badly so they’re left unconscious, or can’t do anything except lie on the ground and groan? We all know the answer, and I think we’re all sick of these rules.
There’s one bit — one! — that I half-smirked at. It’s performed by Theroux and involves the fate of a tiny Tinkerbell-like fairy. That’s all I’m going to say.
I was 90% delighted with Green’s Pineapple Express, but this thing is a disaster. Green is a longtime pally of McBride’s, who wrote the script with Ben Best, and their friendship (along with the stunning cluelessness of Universal executives) is apparently the key reason why audiences will be grappling with Your Highness this weekend.
Has there ever been a more radical transformation…corruption, I mean, in the style and tone of a once-respected director than what has happened with Green? Some day the New Beverly Cinema will show a double bill of Your Highness and George Washington, Green’s small-scale 2000 film that struck almost everyone as being Terrence Malick-y. And the people that experience that double-bill are going to come out staggering and saying, “What kind of sell-out kool-aid did Green drink?”