Your Highness

© Universal Pictures / E1 Entertainment

Today sees the UK cinema release of medieval fantasy comedy Your Highness – which features TVO’s very own Simon Farnaby in it’s ensemble cast.  Our editor-in-chief attended a preview screening this week, so here is his personal review…

There’s a strange air of familiarity surrounding Your Highness – the latest attempt to do justice to an epic tale of American actors pretending to be British, swanning around with occasionally questionable accents.  As per usual, arguably more talented Brits are left to gather up the crumbs of what’s left in the script for them to devour, with scenery-chewing aplomb.  Yet perhaps because of this familiarity, the end result is sometimes stronger than many of those it is parodying.

It’s true that in order to really appreciate the film, you need to have a firm tick in the ‘Danny McBride Tickles My Funny Bone’ box.  If you liked his washed up loser pyrotechnic maniac character in Tropic Thunder, or his washed up loser tour guide out of his depth in Land Of The Lost, then you’ll absolutely love this ego massaging medieval fantasy quest written by, produced by and starring McBride as washed up loser younger brother Prince Thadeos.  If you found both of those films lacking in the laughs department, the chances are you’re a lost cause with this one.

Fortunately, I was in the former camp already – and the inclusion of Simon Farnaby as a character known only as Manious The Bold, and a strong ensemble cast featuring Natalie Portman, James Franco, Toby Jones, Damien Lewis, Charles Dance, Zooey Deschanel and Tropic Thunder screenwriter Justin Theroux swayed me further.  Sure, the trailers made it look like Robin Hood: Men In Tights with cruder dick-jokes… but with all that talent on display, surely there must be more to it than that?

© Universal Pictures / E1 Entertainment

The truth is there is a bit more to it than that, but not much, and the end result is one that won’t please everybody.  It’s certainly crude – though oddly restrained considering the various possibilities to ramp up the yuck-factor.  It’s also got a wafer thin plot that you can see coming after five minutes, while the jokes don’t always come thick and fast either at first, with the early scenes tending to sag more than a little.  So much money seems to have been spent getting the period look right and the effects to look sensational, but not enough time has been focused on just getting a quickfire round of gags in where it counts the most.

Yet the film picks up pace when evil warlock Leezar [Thereoux] kidnaps the slightly dopey Belladona [Deschanel], right before she gets to marry noble Prince Fabious [Franco – do ya see what they did there?].  Aided by his stoner brother Thadious and his trusty assistant Courtney [former Saxondale and The Wrong Door star Rasmus Hardiker], Fabious sets off to rescue his sweetheart before Leezar can impregnate her with dragon sperm at a once-every-200-years eclipse event he rather catchily calls The Fuckening.  Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

Along the way, they meet a strange perverted jellyfish-like muppet creature, a rather horny minotaur (in more ways than one!), a tribe of cave girls led by the weirdest looking man I’ve seen on a cinema screen in some time, and the sumptuous beauty of warrior maiden Isabel, played by Natalie Portman, who may never quite shake off that Lonely Island rap for me!  The gang also face off against treacherous knights who hinder their every move, including of course, our very own Simon Farnaby, who has a surprisingly large amount of screen-time for a character who says so very little.

© Universal Pictures / E1 Entertainment

Whilst all of this lacks originality, it’s all played with a knowing wink to the audience.  A worrying number of genuine belly-laughs come from the simplest act of propelling foul-mouthed outbursts towards one another whilst dressed for battle and putting on the best ‘Ever-so-rather’ accents all involved can muster.  As I mentioned above, the crude jokes are certainly tamer than you may expect, and come across more in the vein of Monty Python than American Pie… and they are not there to automatically increase the guidance ratings to make the film sound funnier than it is, but because deep down inside, there’s not a soul alive who doesn’t think willies are a little bit silly looking.

But it’s when the production takes it down a notch, and allows these characters time to breathe that the real corkers come out.   Despite their flimsy characterisation, just about every major character is immensely likable.  Even the villains are given priceless moments of offbeat banter, and whilst you may not really care about the heroes quest one iota, its only natural to want to spend 102 minutes in their company just chilling out and having a ball.   For whilst we all wish we were highbrow comedy fans who care about seeking humorous responses to the human condition, it’s things like Python’s ‘Fish Slapping Dance’ or hell, Bob Fossil rubbing his nipples to the tune of 10cc, which really get us guffawing.  It is those kind of stupendous moments that this film has by the bucketload.  Your Highness is a broadstrokes comedy designed to be enjoyed by a group of friends sat around with a couple of beers and some popcorn, rather than a film to watch in isolation with a black coffee and a critical mind – and for that purpose, I feel it is probably on dvd where this film will really find its audience, and possibly become a minor cult favourite for years to come.

Is it a classic?  No, of course not.  Far from it, and several prestigious [and let’s be frank, a bit arty-farty] critics have ripped it to shreds.  Other’s have been far kinder to the film… having realised it’s not trying to reinvent the wheel, and if you just kick back, switch your brain to neutral and enjoy the ride, you’ll find that Your Highness is onto a slightly ropey, but ultimately entertaining winner.

Your Highness is released in UK cinemas on Friday 14th April, and worldwide over the coming months.  It is also in US cinemas now.

6 Comments on Your Highness

  1. Your review itself was frankly hilarious Didy. I was in stitches reading it. It could be more funny than the actual film itself. I was trying to ascertain whether you genuinely enjoyed the movie or whether you were being deeply kind to a patchy piece of rubblish. But I think you enjoyed it for what it was – and lets face it a movie with the term “The Fuckening” has to be seen merely to delight in it’s juvenile pomposity! I’ve not seen it myself and like you say it’s probably not for deep thinkers to ponder the meaning of life (which is normally me, unfortunately) but maybe it is because the human condition being what it is – (self obsessed and self righteous) this type of thing takes you right out of that hideous mind set and propels you into the realm of the ridiculous and makes you guffaw like a demented parrot. Could be worth a watch for the experience alone!

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    • I did enjoy it… but as you say, it’s one to watch for what it is. I like the term juvenile pomposity!

      Go in expecting a new cinematic comedy masterpiece and you’ll be disappointed. Go in expecting cheap laughs and a shedload of silly, and you’ll have a great time. Definitely the kind of film you watch with a group of mates having fun, rather than one to watch alone methinks. Popcorn fodder, but funny popcorn fodder at that.

      There is one particular sequence towards the end that I won’t spoil, except to say it involves a Conan The Barbarian lookalike who appears earlier in the film. It’s resolution got possibly the biggest belly laugh of the film from me… just the right level of totally bonkers.

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  2. My favorite bit: “Your Highness is a broadstrokes comedy designed to be enjoyed by a group of friends sat around with a couple of beers and some popcorn, rather than a film to watch in isolation with a black coffee and a critical mind”

    Isolaaaaaaaaaaaaation….Isolaaaaaaaaaaaaation…

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  3. Made it to cheap Tuesday night at the cinema this week with my fam and caught the Russell Brand Arthur re-make, and my daughter had gone earlier to see Your Highness also…She said the best thing about it was Natalie Portman’s face. And barely. Ouch. That review, combined with this one, stating the need for a ‘Danny McBride Tickles My Funny Bone’ filter scares me off. I have sometimes enjoyed a film in spite of him, but I don’t think it would be possible to overlook him in this case.

    Doesn’t seem like the most promising month for comedy movies on the big screen.

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  4. rindehoops // April 15, 2011 at 9:00 am // Reply

    i enjoyed reading this review, i found it thorough and fair, the trailer gives the impression it is written by a group of 15yr old lads in a drama workshop who can only deliver the lamest of knob gags, no thanks i’ll pass. However, having read your review it would seem there is more to it and genuine laughs to be had so now im thinking it maybe worth a watch on dvd. Well done!

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  5. The Beautiful Karltio // April 27, 2011 at 11:09 am // Reply

    I saw this film last night, I wasn’t too keen on the film itself so the best preparation is no preparation. Went in with low expectations and I really enjoyed the film for what it was. Certain elements of films like Willow, Labyrinth, Tristan + Isolde, Conan which made it even more of a joy to watch.
    The work on making the sets so spot on were a real credit to the film. Graphically intro was also very amusing.

    For me I am someone who has never seen Danny McBrides films before I guess he ticked my box :-p James Franco and Natalie fitted in greatly with a cracking Wizard, unfortunately the only person leaving me feel left out with the bride to be. To be fair she didn’t have to do much just ly there, sit there, stand there, do a ghostbusters Zule growl \ Exorcist :-p Shame.

    Overall it was dam funny, not much of a plot at all but still entertaining. We all cant wait for the F*ckoning to begin.

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