By Stephanie Zacharek
By Chris Packham
By John Anderson
By Nick Schager
By Anna Dimond
By Chris Klimek
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
Your Highness plays like a dirty-joke blooper reel made by the cast of a junky sword-and-sorcery epic, streaked with carelessly contemporary-sounding blue humor, blunt profanity replacing the naughty-naughty, tankard-sloshing, heaving-bosom ribaldry that goes with the period setting.
The scene: a generic medieval realm from an EverQuest or Forgotten Realms module. In a kingdom beneath two moons, where everyone attempts English accents when they remember to, Prince Thadeous (Danny McBride) resigns himself to live in the shadow of his firstborn brother, Fabious (James Franco, strapping straight man). In Goofus and Gallant style, as Thadeous loafs and tokes, Fabious returns flecked with gore and glory from his latest quest, having freed a bride-to-be, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), from fairy-tale captivity.
When wicked wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux) re-kidnaps Belladonna, planning to force her into ritual breeding, Fabious drags reluctant Thadeous along on a rescue mission. The party is eventually rounded out by Rasmus Hardiker as Thadeous' valet and Natalie Portman, in easily her greatest role as a vengeance-lusty ranger.
The fantasy setting is selected less for Bored of the Rings send-up — though there is obvious relish in putting dumpy McBride into Boris Vallejo landscapes — than to license anything-goes liberation. One giddy sequence starts with Thadeous mocking Fabious' anxiety about his bride's endangered maidenhead — as in All the Real Girls, the plot hinges on Deschanel's intact virginity. When they're suddenly surrounded by nude warrior nymphs, the captive heroes are dragged into a primitive coliseum presided over by an infantilized chieftain.
But such unobstructed, whooping, and wheeling free association isn't the rule. The movie's improvisatory recklessness often relies on stock, fallback comedy: scenes lazily punchlined on four-letter words, pot slang, and gay jokes offensive only in their unoriginality.
The constant raunch in Your Highness spoofs on the horny confusion of the adolescent audience that fantasy art has traditionally catered to. A climactic battle royal rages around Leezar's performance anxiety — Theroux plays the wizard with funny insidious skeeviness, like a dirty kid bluffing at experience. Much mileage is also given to a Minotaur dong, while the last laugh makes it clear that the grail of every magical adventure is actual sex (after which most folks ditch their Dungeon Master's Guide).
In the film's opening credits, Prince Valiant-style illustrations of the characters are graffitied with drawn-on dicks, tits, and lit joints — like the vandalized movie posters in the subway that make the advertised products seem much more entertaining than they could ever possibly be. So through auto-defacement does Your Highness restore the heroic saga.
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