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Your Highness

A Vulgar Fantasy

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

It’s strange to think that the guy playing Bust-Ass in David Gordon Green’s second feature All the Real Girls would not only become a leading man, but that his name would become more recognizable than Green’s. Green and McBride have continued to work together, in Green’s first foray into comedy with Pineapple Express, and most notably in McBride’s show Eastbound and Down.

While Pineapple Express may have been McBride’s break out role, and Green’s introduction to the masses unaware of his indie past, it was mostly a Seth Rogan vehicle. Your Highness is not a companion piece but rather closer in tone to, unsurprisingly, Eastbound and Down. Like their HBO show, Your Highness is highly improvised, full of dick jokes and more amusing than laugh-out-loud funny. And that’s OK. It may not be as immediately satisfying as Pineapple Express but neither is McBride’s humor. It’s more abrasive, simmering and, ultimately, biting.

The film is one giant throwback to fantasy films of the late 70s and 80s, full of ridiculous sorcery, mystical creatures but set in medieval times. The tale follows the quest of brother’s Thadeous (McBride) and Fabious (James Franco) as they seek to rescue Fabious’ kidnapped maiden Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) and destroy her captor, the evil Leezar (Justin Theroux). Along the path, of course, they run into all sorts of roadblocks and meet plenty of characters, especially Isabel (Natalie Portman), a skilled fighter on her own quest to avenge her family’s death.

The scenery is amazing and it’s fantasy-setting plays as homage rather than a simple parody. The love of the genre creates a solid core for the film and while we’re laughing at how ridiculous the world they created is, it can be taken seriously.

Fabious is the cliché hero, always on a quest for his father’s kingdom and returning victorious. Franco imbues him with a naïve, one-track mind as heir to the throne. He’s the skilled warrior that’s always winning the adoration of those around him and brings home the rescued virgin to marry. Thadeous, on the other hand, is the ungrateful younger brother, smoking weed and bossing around his servant Courtney (Rasmus Hardikur). But it’s Thadeous who must grow up and become a hero himself.

What made Pineapple Express so great was Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s tight script. Much was improvised, sure, but the story flowed. However, the heavy improvisation in Your Highness takes away from much of the film. With a grander story and setting, the loose dialogue against the fantastical backdrop doesn’t always mesh and takes away from the story. It adds to a few awkward edits where it seems as if there was more cut out for time, studio pressure or any number of reasons. These days it’s assured that more will be added to the “uncut” DVD version (for better or worse) but it actually felt short for a nearly two hour film.

Still, it’s a quality film and Green is a more than competent director who holds everything together. Something also must be said for the lavish sets and effects that look much better than films with twice, or even three times, the budget. McBride’s humor isn’t as immediate accessible as those of his contemporaries like Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen and is definitely an acquired taste, an odd mix of dry and potty humor. It may not be the best comedy of the year, but it’s wholly original and worth seeing on that merit alone.

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