How … why … who … what…?
What just happened there?
Why am I laughing?
What, in the vernacular, the fuck was that?
Your Highness is wrong on so many levels. It ought to be a disaster. For reasons I can’t fathom, it isn’t. It is absurd, gratuitous, vulgar, childish, stupid and utterly incongruous. And I thought it was great.
Natalie Portman playing against Danny McBride: what kind of fevered imagination comes up with that sort of an idea? What sort of miracle worker makes it actually happen? What sort of genius makes it work?
And that’s just the start: There are jarring conflicts everywhere you look. Animal husbandry: You may cross a horse with a donkey and get a mule, but some hybrids just don’t go: You don’t play a Black Swan against Kenny Powers. You don’t cross The Princess Bride with Animal House. If you do, you sure as hell don’t throw in Bad Taste for good measure. You don’t blow millions on Industrial Light & Magic style digital effects one moment and then fill the screen with a cheap rubber alien wizard (a dope-smoking, kiddie-fiddling alien wizard at that) that looks like it came from a joke shop the next. You can’t rely on non-expectant swearing and expect to get away with it. At least, not fifty times. But all in all, it seems to work.
Danny McBride – last seen heading Eastbound and Down, more or less reprises Kenny Powers, complete with mullet and goatee (no method actor, Mr McBride, I dare say), only here he is a useless younger prince in a mediaeval kingdom in a land far, far, far away. On a different planet, indeed: there is a twin moon, and it is important to the plot (I suppose you could call it a plot).
Unlike most mediaeval kingdoms this is one where everyone intones smutty innuendos with English accents that come and go like rotating speakers. Kenny – I mean, Thadeous – is more or less Blackadder to Fabious’ Prince Harry. Fabious (James Franco, swashing his buckles for all he is worth and for some reason channelling Steve Tyler from Aerosmith) has a whale of a time as a slightly dopey hunk. They are pitted against evil warlock Leezar (a superb Justin Theroux) a criminally under-explained villain who has bad teeth, worse hair, and who also has a whale of a time, vacillating between occult power and sexual impotence (there are knob jokes aplenty here). Theroux’ delivery of his actually pretty ordinary material is spot on.
Along the way there are entirely gratuitous scenes of every dimension: sand encrusted nude barbarian vixens in the thrall of a large fat pink sorcerer (John Fricker) in a nappy, in a Thunderdome. Much violence, and more gay innuendo. Did I mention there are lots of willie jokes? There are the occasional outrageous visual gags. There’s a frisky minotaur. There is a scheduled coming together of the moons which will result in a rare event called … – well, you’ll just have to see it, because I don’t want to spoil it. Totally immature, but still I just about wet myself.
Natalie Portman boxes on far more gamely than anyone has any right to expect a recently minted Oscar laureate to. I constantly found myself wondering what on earth had possessed her to sign up for this project – perhaps relaxation therapy after a long dose of Darren Aronofsky – but being eternally grateful that she had. She is a tremendous sport throughout, and my regard for her is undoubtedly enhanced.
I have complained in these pages about the reliance on rote, formula and technology in place of proper drama in modern motion pictures. No complaints on that score here: while there’s absolutely no proper drama on speak of, you couldn’t fault David Gordon Green and his team for showing a bit of spirit. Instead of a tightly followed plan, there’s no plan at all (Do you think my methods are unsound? I don’t see any method at all, sir).
But when the alternative that passes for comedy these days is Meet the Spartans and Little Red Riding Hood (At least, I can only assume that’s intended to be a comedy) then this has to come well recommended.
Leave your maiden aunt, your kids or your critical faculties at home, come for a laugh and you’ll have a blast.
Director: David Gordon Green
Stars: Danny McBride, Zooey Deschanel, James Franco
Runtime: 102 min