Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Movie Review: Your Highness

            I want to start by saying that I know for a fact I would have enjoyed this movie more if I had been baked. I’d downed 64 ounces of Miller Lite beforehand at the Dave & Buster’s; but – as one Phantomaniac pointed out to me on Facebook - that isn’t the same. Of course, he then went on to claim that marijuana enabled him to more fully appreciate the nuances and directorial decisions of stoner movies.
Right, dude. Being bombed just makes you more accepting of shit that doesn’t work or pacing issues or pretty much any error a movie that features a pedophiliac Yoda stand-in smoking weed and kissing James Franco full on the mouth might have to offer. You’re too busy with your giggles over what happened fifteen minutes ago to notice the giant hole in the plot.
I smoked weed for years and there’s two things I can tell you for sure.
No, literally. Just two things – that’s how much weed fucks up your brain.

Anyway, I had this whole plan to get a bunch of people together and go to Medieval Times and get loaded before seeing Your Highness on Saturday. It sounded like pure fucking genius to me and everybody I mentioned it to, but there was the whole problem of getting a bunch of people together. I realized a couple of days out that it just wasn’t going to happen so I scrapped that idea and planned on just going whenever I could on Friday.
The first whenever I could was supposed to be at 1:30 Friday afternoon. I worked Thursday night, but I thought I could probably get up in time to make the movie. The problem was that I had written that PCWrecap the night before and – despite not being entirely happy with it – wanted to get it up. It ended up being as much of a pain in the ass to post as it was to write and I didn’t finish until almost 8 AM. That’s okay, though, because apparently nobody read it. Thanks, fuckers.
By the time I got upstairs to go to bed the family was up, so I went in to hang out with Lil’ Troublemaker for a while. This led to my next (completely insane) plan of just staying up and going to the 10:40 show. That plan lasted exactly long enough for me to realize how tired I was. I decided I’d just go see Your Highness sometime this week. It just wasn’t going to happen that weekend.
Then I got up at about 3:00 and decided I really wanted to see the movie before I heard any reviews and took a quick shower and drove out to Discover Mills to catch the 5:00 show. I got there in time to run in Dave & Buster’s and down a beer – I didn’t want to see this one completely sober – and go to the ticket kiosk and find out the 5:00 showing was sold out. Fucking Spring Break.
So I went home, back to my plan of maybe stopping to see Your Highness on the way home from work Tuesday.
I spent the rest of the day with the family and didn’t think much more about it until they went to bed and Mrs. Troublemaker asked why I didn’t go ahead and see it at midnight. Good question. I went downstairs and looked at showtimes, not entirely sure I wanted to go until a commercial came on TV. I decided I might as well head back out to Discover Mills and see it. But I bought my ticket in advance, this time.
On a whim I called Angry Matt to see if he wanted to meet me over there. He did.
I once again headed over to Dave & Buster’s and enjoyed and couple of adult beverages. Angry Matt lives about twenty minutes away from Discover Mills, so I knew I had about ten to wait. Fortunately for me there were some ladies singing karaoke in the bowling alley (D&B’s is kind of weird). When I walked in, three black ladies were singing the theme song to The Jeffersons. They were really good. Like, killing it. But then when they finished the guy hosting the karaoke took over and man; it was bad. He did one of my least favorite songs on the planet. I don’t know the name of it, but one of the lines is something like this:
Won’t you play that funky Dixieland,
Pretty Momma come take me by the hand.”
I fucking hate that song so much I don’t even have words for it. And it didn’t help that the guy had probably the worst singing voice I’ve ever heard in my life. And no sense of rhythm. Although, now that I think about it, that’s probably an advantage in hosting karaoke. The audience’s motivation for getting up and singing is twofold: 1) If that guy is doing it, then I can certainly get up there!, 2) If I get up there, he will stop!
It’s kind of genius. I feel the need to mention that Mrs. Troublemaker and I tried a seafood place nearby that we hadn’t eaten at before on Saturday night. It was great – better than the one on the North Carolina coast that we both like – but the point is that they, too had karaoke. There was this one guy that did an Elvis song and a Brian Setzer song and he was really good.
Alright. That’s more than enough pre-ramble. Angry Matt showed up and we went and saw Your Highness.
The opening of the movie is awesome. A fair maiden is tied up and clearly moments away from being violated by an evil wizard (that’s not the awesome part). The scene is played entirely straight and that’s a big part of what makes the opening of the movie work so well. The distressed damsel is rescued in decisive and violent fashion just in the nick of time by a brave band of knights and proceeds to make a proclamation that is the first illogical leap of the movie. She says something about how she hopes another maiden can be rescued from peril by a brave knight in a hundred years. What? This is where the weed comes in. If you’re high, you’re going to dismiss the fact that that doesn’t make any fucking sense.
Fade into Danny McBride in a noose. McBride’s character – Thadeous – has been sent on a diplomatic mission by his father, the king. He’s supposed to sign a treaty or something with the Dwarves of the North (I think) but ended up sleeping with the Queen, who is easily the hottest midget I’ve ever seen. Because of course, rather than using fancy WETA effects; Your Highness opts to just cast Little People as Dwarves (although I just read that the actress that plays the Dwarf Queen is not, in fact, a midget).
Thadeous escapes with the help of his devoted assistant Courtney – who comes close to stealing a lot of scenes – and this leads us into the credits. Which were the first problem I had.
The credit sequence is a beautifully animated depiction of Thadeous and Courtney’s escape from the Dwarves. The two actors provide voice-overs for the action and it’s pretty hilarious. The thing I didn’t like is that throughout the credit sequence there are telestrator-style drawings being done over the animation the whole time. Penises on dragons or titties on wenches; that kind of thing. I’m not saying it isn’t funny – it kind of is; it’s just too heavy-handed. The animated sequence is funny enough on its own without the additional crap.
From there we go to the big scene that establishes who everybody is. Thadeous is a layabout shitbag that never lives up to his father’s expectations. His brother, Fabious (James Franco) is a Big Damn Hero who is always going off on Quests and slaying beasts and saving the kingdom and whatnot. The idea is presented here that a single wizard – Leezar (Justin Theroux) - is responsible for most of the woes of the kingdom. Fabious has rescued a comely maiden on his latest Quest and is going to marry her. The maiden – Belladonna; played by the always weird Zooey Deschanel – is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Well, she’s not stupid; she’s just lived her whole life in captivity, leading to some hilarious scenes (which I hope there are more of on the home release). Apparently Leezar took her when she was a child in anticipation of the twin moons meeting because at that time he could have his way with her which would cause her to give birth to a dragon that he could control and use to take over the kingdom. Yeah.
I got confused here because I always get Justin Theroux mixed up with Justin Long and I was trying to figure out why Leezar didn’t look anything like the Mac guy. Instead, he looked just like the guy who wrote Iron Man 2. Also, Leezar’s ridiculous Billy Bob teeth absolutely cracked me up for some reason.
Naturally Leezar shows up at Fabious and Belladonna’s wedding to ruin the day. This is the first sequence of the movie where you sort of go, “Holy shit! This looks like a real movie!” because the effects all look very cool and there is this one spell Leezar casts where a woman appears and turns into three women who shoot fireballs at everybody. It’s like something right out of Beastmaster or Krull. So Leezar manages to steal the bride right out from under everybody. You know what that means:
QUEST!
Unlike the Sucker Punch review, I’m not giving any spoilers on Your Highness. It isn’t my favorite movie or anything, but you definitely need to see it. I laughed a lot.
The music was handled well – all instrumental score rather than some awful collection of nu-metal that would have blown the atmosphere.
The cast is perfect. McBride plays Thadeous pretty much like all of his other characters, which is fine with me. I don’t have a problem with actors that hit a stride and stick with it. Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Wil Ferrell – you know what you’re getting. When did Adam Sandler start to suck? When he did some drama (and I’m not talking about the Paul Thomas Anderson movie that I can never remember the name of but that I own – that was actually good). But Spanglish? Please. And give me Beverly Hills Cop Eddie Murphy over Dr. Doolittle Eddie Murphy any day of the week.
It’s tempting to go on about just how good McBride is about weaving his typical white trash dirtbag character into a fantasy setting, but there were other great performances in the movie. James Franco is great as Fabious, the heroic brother. He’s not the dolt you might expect from such a role, but Franco does have to pull off a certain amount of obliviousness. Particularly in the scene with the Wise Wizard.
I really like the fact that the brothers do love each other. Thadeous is irritated by his brother’s seeming perfection, but clearly adores him. Fabious is aware of his brother’s faults and loves him unconditionally despite them. The relationship is clear and one of the cornerstones of the movie.
I already mentioned Zooey Deschanel and her hilarious performance. The other female lead of the movie is Natalie Portman and she plays one of the best straight men I have seen in a while. She is Very Serious and dedicated to her own Quest, which of course intersects with the brothers’. Most importantly, you actually buy that her character is a badass. Not just any actress could have gotten away with that and pulled off all the comedy. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how amazing her hiney looks in that scene by the lake. I don’t know how they found a stunt ass to match that.
Also in the movie are Charles Dance as the king and Rasmus Hardiker as Thadeous’ manservant, Courtney. Dance does a great job and reminds me of a manlier Tim Roth. Hardiker, however, is the find of the movie. I think this is his first major film and he owns his role. When you’re on screen hanging with talents like Franco and McBride (and don’t be fooled – McBride is talented and very, very good at what he does) then you’ve got something special to offer. His character Courtney is one of the highlights of the film. One of those secondary characters that could have been a throwaway for laughs but by the end of the movie you’re like, “Oh, man. I hope they don’t kill him.” Know what I mean?
All of the individual bits within the film work on their own. The giant hand and the crazy titty people in the forest, the minotaur, the sequences in Leezar’s castle, the grimy town (and the entry into said town that is clearly meant to evoke the introduction of Mos Eisley spaceport) and of course the Wise Wizard.
The story is flimsy and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in a couple of spots, but honestly the movie is about the jokes and the magic shit. And on that level it is a complete success. The characters are all memorable and hilarious and I bet stoners and teenagers are already quoting lines all over the place. Don’t get me wrong – I think Your Highness could have been a legitimately great movie if a little more attention had been paid to tying things together and maintaining a fluid story. It feels just a bit too much like a collection of random events that happen to involve the same people. There’s no arc. Or something. There were so many things done just right in the movie that it makes me a little mad anything was done wrong. It could have been a great movie.
But I still liked it a lot. I’ll buy it when it comes out on Blu-Ray and I’ll probably buy it again when they do a Director’s Cut. If you’re a stoner you’ve already seen it (no – trust me – you may not remember but you did) and if you’re a fan of out-there comedies and fantasy movies you owe it to yourself to check out Your Highness. The effects are worthy of any standard fantasy flick (they’re not quite Lord of the Rings caliber; but what is, really?) and the locations are beautiful. It really paid off for them to film it in and around Dublin. Sets would have ruined this one for me, much like they ruined Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Okay, well – that was fucked from the start.
Oh, and the Minotaur in Your Highness is the best looking one I have seen on screen. The scene with Courtney is… memorable.
I went into this movie with very high – no pun intended – expectations, so it’s something of a miracle that I liked it as much as I did. Honestly, this is one of those movies that sitting here writing about it has made me like it more and want to see it again. I’ll have to do another review after the Blu-Ray hits. For now:
3 out of 5 Severed Giant Hand Monster Fingers
Until next time, stay creepy
-Phantom
 

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