Sometimes a film comes along that feels like it was almost made for you. Which is what makes it so strange that it took this long for me to get around to watching the 2011 fantasy comedy Your Highness. The film was just another in a long line of projects that exemplified the sheer chaos that is the career of director David Gordon Green. What started out as a career of independent critical favorites such as George Washington and Undertow then shifted to raunchy stoner comedies such as this or Pineapple Express and now on to the new Halloween reboot trilogy. Along the way, he has had a tendency to keep his close friend Danny McBride by his side, who himself was making the most of cameos in films such as Tropic Thunder and as the lead of the classic HBO series Eastbound & Down. To reteam with his Pineapple Express star James Franco was a no-brainer, and why not bring along newly-minted Best Actress winner Natalie Portman (Black Swan) and another beloved manic pixie dream girl, Zooey Deschanel (500 Days of Summer), along for the ride? This movie has everything I could love, so why does it feel like such an underwhelming project?
The script co-written by McBride is the product of an in-joke between good friends that spiraled into this big budget studio comedy that did not even come close to recouping its cost. Thadeous (McBride) is the good-for-nothing, screw-up son of King Tallious (Charles Dance, Game of Thrones) in the Kingdom of Mourne. Thadeous is known around the kingdom for getting into trouble and remaining blazed out of his mind for large portions of his waking life. He seems quite the disappointment when compared to his handsome, valiant brother Prince Fabious (James Franco), who has just returned from heartily defeating the wicked sorcerer Leezar (Justin Theroux, The Leftovers), who has been a menace to the kingdom for the longest time. Fabious is not alone, though; he brings home with him the fair maiden Belladonna (Deschanel), a virginal beauty who was freed from a tower by Fabious after a lifetime of imprisonment. Thadeous is quite jealous of the constant praise that Fabious receives from all of the good he does in the world, and the announcement of his impending marriage just compounds the resentment. When Leezar returns and kidnaps Belladonna, Thadeous and Fabious must embark on a quest to rescue her.
The basic plotline is straight out of a classic fantasy adventure. Your Highness gets credit for doing a lot of ambitious things within the narrative that have fallen out of fashion in mainstream films. Every aspect of the film is dialed up to 11 on the “ridiculous scale,” but the creative team does not cheap out when it comes to bringing it to life. A fighting pit where they fight a magical serpentine fist is an impressive feat of CGI, and the minotaur action that is present on screen feels real despite the over-the-top gross-out humor that stems from it. As a fantasy film, the narrative is a solid enough entry into the genre in terms of honoring all of the unique elements of the story. This is not just a fantasy movie, though, and the humor that is supposed to accompany this film more often than not just misses the mark completely. McBride is the king of saying the most vile dialogue without it making you feel dirty, but the huge laughs he usually garners amount to a mere smirk or chuckle for the majority of the runtime. I’m also no prude when it comes to juvenile humor, but the script cannot seem to find the laughs in the midst of the shock value.
It would be fair to say that most of the problems reside within the script, as it has been well-documented in the past that these performers are capable of greatness, but nothing feels natural here. Franco is usually dependable in a stoner comedy, but very few of his lines amount to anything substantial. He also struggles with selling the emotional moments of brotherly bonding that come from the Thadeous and Fabious relationship. Lord knows what Natalie Portman is doing here as the skilled warrior Isabel. I love Portman in a comedic role – I’m someone who used to cite Garden State as a favorite movie, and I am of the firm belief that No Strings Attached is an underrated comedy – but she can only do so much to bring something extra to this role. She did her job of making me want to see this movie more because of her, but she is wasted in this role. Even Deschanel seems to revert to her The Happening level of acting, which no one wants, but once again the character is written to be two dimensional. Your Highness has moments that make you laugh out loud, but it never gets to the level that you feel like you will ever need to watch it again. This movie is a prime example of a missed opportunity.
Your Highness comes to Blu-Ray courtesy of Mill Creek with a 1080p transfer that appears to be nearly identical to the Universal release almost nine years ago. This is wonderful news, though, as that release is vibrant and beautiful with no signs of age-related wear and tear. For the majority of the film, the transfer looks incredibly clear and detailed with only a couple of shots exhibiting a very mild amount of banding or digital noise. The transfer is lifelike with some impressive detail in the production design and texture of clothing. Colors stand out in a really pleasing manner with bright, vivid hues leaping off the screen in almost every scene. Black levels are pleasing in their depth with not much in the way of crush present. There are no specks of damage or other major anomalies present in the transfer. Overall, I was quite impressed by how strong the presentation was from beginning to end.
Mill Creek Entertainment brings us this new Blu-Ray with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix that is an absolute powerhouse. While this is a comedy, it is also a kinetic swords-and-sorcery epic that packs a punch with huge set pieces involving magic, sword fights and dragons. The environmental effects are delineated nicely and given a dynamic placement throughout the speakers. The sounds of a raucous fighting pit along with a slew of other sounds bring nuanced life to the rear speakers. The dialogue holds up quite nicely, coming though clearly without being stepped on by the music or sound effects. The movie features a sweeping genre-appropriate score which sounds great within the mix. This is a track that was way more dynamic than I ever expected it to be. A truly pleasing experience.
- Theatrical (1:42:16) and Unrated (1:45:24) Versions
- Audio Commentaries: Both versions are listed as having a commentary track, but it is the same track with Director David Gordon Green, executive producer/co-writer/star Danny McBride and actors James Franco and Justin Theroux providing an incredibly lively and informative track. While the atmosphere itself is just a fun time between friends, there are actually a ton of production details, hilarious anecdotes and other great moments worth checking out for fans of the participants.
- Alternate/Deleted/Extended Scenes: 26 minutes of unused material is included here including a deleted musical montage, a wild scene involving a dragon egg, an extended run of Leezar tearing down Fabious and more. The humorous moments are hit and miss, but there are some truly funny moments interspersed throughout.
- Gag Reel: Five minutes of flubbed lines, ruined takes, joking around and more that are often funnier than moments in the film.
- Damn You Gods – The Making of Your Highness: A 30-minute making-of documentary that is pretty substantial as it explores the origins of the film, inspirations that went into creating the world, improvising on the set, bringing the cast together and more. This is way more informative and entertaining than the average making-of featurette for a comedy.
Your Highness is a film that has all the right ingredients to come together for a comedy classic, but the actual result is something more uninspired and pedestrian. The movie is sure to give you a few cheap laughs, but it does not satisfy the desire for big belly laughs that keep you returning to watch again and again. All of these actors are pretty wonderful, but they have all done better work in other films. Mill Creek Entertainment has released a Blu-Ray that sports a top notch A/V presentation and a solid assortment of special features. For those fans of the film who have not picked it up yet, this is a nice, budget-friendly release.
Your Highness is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Mill Creek Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.