Thursday, April 21, 2011

Your Highness

"Natalie Portman's Post-Oscar Slump, Part 1"

I've needed a laugh lately.  I've been second-and third-guessing myself, not sure which way to go on all sorts of matters.  And after seeing two movies, good and bad, in which anyone can be tread upon by the Government (The Conspirator and this Saturday's "Take Out the Trash" entry), I needed something light, something frothy, something not Hanna or The Lincoln Lawyer.

I needed a comedy, dammit!  After playing pin-ball in my head for a week and a half, I wanted a new thought to tilt me out of my doldrums. It would be appropriate, too, as every scene we've looked at Sundays of this April Fools Month has been a comedy (this week will be no exception), so a comedy might be just the thing to kick my torpor in the ass, or at least make it slip on a banana peel.

Wish I'd found one, because this isn't it.

Your Highness, in fact, makes me wish I was living in a different era—not the one depicted in the film, of course, but also not in a time when such a movie, with big stars (every Briton who isn't in the "Harry Potter" series, like Charles Dance and Damian Lewis), sumptuous locales and elaborate costuming can be so sloppily put-together that one gets the impression that at every stage the film-makers said "Eh...good enough" and moved on.  I noticed myself laughing exactly twice, and longing for something—anything—to be half-way clever or even half-way executed.*  I like my comedy to have a brain in its head, and something to say besides what could shock your grandmother.  Despite the cast, this one has so little going for it, you start to worry that at least the cast were well compensated.  Because it couldn't have been for love.

I'm a fan of James Franco, Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel, but why they should play second-fiddle to Danny McBride (who's usually lousy...Land of the Lost...and who barely registered as the reluctant groom in Up in the Air) is beyond me  Sure, Franco probably owes director David Gordon Green for his role in Pineapple Express (which I haven't seen, but have heard good things about), but he seems a bit lost in this, although gamely appearing cluelessly cheery throughout.  

Borrowing heavily from every fantasy-adventure movie from the last 20 years (and liberally from Star Wars—their take on Yoda is particularly nasty, and they have a clockwork bird-familiar after the original Clash of the Titans), Highness tells the story of the sons of King Tallious (Dance) and his two sons—the heir to the throne, Fabious (Franco), and the ne'er-do-well younger Thadeous (McBride) who would appear to be "Your Lowness."  Fabious' bride Belladonna (Deschanel) is kidnapped by the evil sorcerer Leezar (Justin Theroux, who co-wrote Tropic Thunder, another high-concept low-result comedy) for his own nefarious plans.  Fabious recruits Thadeous to go on the search for Lezar, despite the fact that the younger Prince can't fight, doesn't travel well, and is in all things incompetent.  Plus, he's the "troop griper/whiner."  Good planning.  Dick jokes ensue.

Between the puerile humor there are some action sequences, but Green has a hard time deciding whether he's playing them for laughs or for jolts.  Not that it matters, as they succeed in neither, not even in the way that competent directors can achieve both or even one.  And, although things are accomplished, nobody really learns anything so character arcs are as flat as a crushed pixie (the only clever idea I saw in the whole thing).

But, one thing Your Highness did accomplish: I had no second thoughts about it.

Maybe Hanna would have had more laughs.

Your Highness is a Waste of Everybody's Time.

* A complete execution...of me...was what I wanted after seeing this movie!  One thing that is mentioned in all the write-ups I've seen is that the crew went into production with  only a story and everything was adlibbed on-set.  Really, they shouldn't be boasting about that.

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