‘Your Highness’: Not funny, very sloppy

Posted: April 07, 2011

The folks behind the pot epic "Pineapple Express" are back with "Your Highness" and, yes, "highness" is a double entendre.

The movie's a medieval sword and sorcery send-up with lots of reefer, and we're meant to laugh at the anachronistic madness of a party-hearty prince (Danny McBride), dropping f-bombs, leering at girls and smoking weed while he sulks in the shadow of his do-gooder older brother (James Franco).

"Your Highness," though, is low on laughs and a very sloppy piece of work. It invites speculation that the guys who wrote and directed it (McBride, Ben Best) were applying method principles to the story of a pot-smoking prince.

More discipline, fewer Fritos would have helped. "Your Highness," for instance, builds about a hundred jokes around the incongruity of modern slang in a genre setting. But McBride and company haven't worked hard enough to create the puffy, pretentious, formal diction of a king's court (the gold standard being "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"), and without that contrast, the gags become tiresome and repetitive.

McBride makes the opposite mistake with his performance, adopting an English accent and period wig for the role. Without his mullet cut and Georgia drawl, he's like a sheared Sampson, without the power to make us laugh. Desperation sets in, and McBride resorts to prop comedy in the final reels, wearing a large rubber phallus around his neck, sometimes brandishing it at poor Natalie Portman, who suffered enough in "Black Swan."

Portman plays a butt-kicking maiden who joins the princes on a quest to liberate a woman (Zooey Deschanel) from an evil warlock (Justin Theroux).

Theroux is actually kind of funny here, bringing weird angles to the role of the "dark wizard," a dog-eared fantasy-movie archetype. The entire genre, in fact, is long overdue for smart satire. This isn't it.

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