Prince Fabious (James Franco) defeats a cyclops to free a beautiful virgin (Zooey Deschanel) only to lose the virgin back to her kidnapper, a wizard (Justin Theroux) who needs to have sex with her in order to father a dragon. Meanwhile, the prince's pot-smoking ne'er do well little brother, Thadeous (Danny McBride), sulks and pouts about, angry over the fact their father the King holds his questing big brother in high esteem while he, the younger bro, just sits around getting high and bedding willing village maidens. However, Thadeous and his mullet are thrust into the action when the King demands he accompany his brother on a dangerous quest to retrieve the virgin and slay the wizard. They're joined, reluctantly, by a sharp-tongued sharp-shooter (Natalie Portman) who has her own reasons to want the wizard dead.
That's Your Highness, in a nutshell. What I left out was the fact the above mentioned plot is played out with a liberal sprinkling of f-words, penis jokes and references, culminating in the mutilation of a particularly large beastie's private parts. If there's a possibility an f-bomb can be squeezed into a line of dialogue, co-writers McBride and Ben Best (The Foot Fist Way, Eastbound and Down) leap at the chance. And I'm not a prude; I do not mind R-rated language and I expect it in a film that's earned that rating due to strong crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity, violence and some drug use. But here it just seems lazy to have to continuously rely on the 'shock factor' of the f-word to get a laugh.
The women of Your Highness look fantastic. Zooey Deschanel shows off cleavage we never knew she possessed, and even gets to sing a cute little song before being relegated to brief scenes of being terrorized by Justin Theroux's mad wizard character. Oscar-winner Natalie Portman (who obviously did this film prior to nabbing an Academy Award for Black Swan) kicks butt as a warrior out for revenge, and she easily keeps up with her co-stars in the comedy department. She doesn't show up until well into the film, but when she does she provides a welcome shift in focus from the dysfunctional brothers.
The Bottom Line
The swords and sandals genre is perfect fodder for a comedy, and had McBride and Best come up with better material Your Highness could have reigned supreme among 2011's crop of R-rated comedies. But there's no real plot and the film feels like a series of vignettes held together with the loosest of ties. It's crude and rude without a point, and with the talent involved (from Portman and Deschanel to Toby Jones, Justin Theroux, and Charles Dance) there's an incredible amount of wasted opportunities.
There's a difference between being gross and being funny, between getting laughs through shockingly rude dialogue and just using profane language for the sake of using profanity. Your Highness' dialogue doesn't have any punch and director Green and writers McBride & Best lose sight of what's funny early on.
Your Highness was directed by David Gordon Green and is rated R for strong crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity, violence and some drug use.
Theatrical Release: April 8, 2011