'Your Highness' Defaults to Royally Insipid Humor

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"Your Highness," the new comedy starring Danny McBride and James Franco, is a lot like the Dungeon & Dragons scenarios you played in high school: The parallels are striking. Both this movie and those games were a glorious mixture of dragon quests, junk food and the bedding of dwarf maidens. The evening centered on the desires of schlubby, deluded men just like Mr. McBride's character. And most importantly, however, each performance is now shrouded in a haze that comes from being half-baked.

This is not to say that "Your Highness" (or that capture of an Orc fortress) wasn't enjoyable. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in the course of this 100-minute collection of pot and dick jokes. But the script, written by McBride himself, reeks of bong water; like it was slapped together after a modestly productive smoke sesh.

The set-up of "Your Highness" is pretty basic. It is an Apatow flick dressed up like "Lord of the Rings." There are two princes who have to kill an evil wizard to rescue a bride but they'd rather bicker with one another and riff on hand jobs. It's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" redone, but instead of a Connecticut Yankee we've got an Echo Park stoner. An old comedy trope, the modern sensibility clashing with those silly people from history books.

Even with this bland insert-masturbation-joke-here architecture, "Your Highness" does a lot better than similar efforts of late. "Year One" featured Jack Black and Michael Cera endlessly and aimlessly navigating various biblical references. "Your Highness" benefits from a focused narrative arc defined by the aforementioned D&Dish quest. The difference is between a series of anachronistic-humor sketches and a full-length narrative feature, like the difference between Adam McKay's first film (and popular darling) "Anchorman" and his masterful "Stepbrothers." A well structured story, even as a flimsy premise, trumps even the greatest male buffoonery.

Credit goes to director David Gordon Green for keeping things moving. Best known for 2009's "Pineapple Express," Green actually does a better job in this similar project. The combination of frat boy comedy and action carried over from his previous effort. But let's be honest: "Pineapple Express" dragged in the middle, and its replay value suffers for it (as far as I can ascertain, replay value is one of the most important criterion of today's Hollywood comedies for one reason: DVD sales). The princes of "Your Highness" don't spend ages in the forest vacillating over their fate, they move and so does the movie.

As far as acting goes Danny McBride plays his usual self, a persona so perfectly crystallized in the HBO series "East Bound and Down." Director Green worked on the show as well, and consequently there are a few sequences that break from the film's dominant visual style in favor of iconic "East Bound" shots. For fans of McBride's work these are welcome intrusions, and the sight of him hamming it up at the expense of "Your Highness" aesthetic unity is a perfectly acceptable cost.

For those concerned with James "Just Franco" Franco's role, rest assured: "Your Highness" is a return to form for the much-reviled thespian. Actually, as an actor, Franco never really fell off the wagon. However, his antics as MFA student, performance artist and Oscar time have created Franco-phrenic backlash. Thankfully he plays it (mostly) straight in "Your Highness."

Overall this is a mildly entertaining effort from an established comedy team, but its imagination falls short of a critical hit.

Tags: YOUR HIGHNESS


Play some D&D with Derek at [email protected]



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