Year Released: 2011
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 102 minutes
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The Golden Order of Knights sounds like a fierce, determined organization fighting evil in a land with two moons. But in the hands of director David Gordon Green and his “Pineapple Express” stars Danny McBride and James Franco as at-odds brothers and members of that fraternal group of merry men, hijinks of the severe R-rated variety abound in this occasionally funny tale of numerous quests (big ones, mini ones—they apparently come in all sizes, or as one character says of “small ones,” like “boiling an egg or beating off in front of a Pegasus”). Set in medieval times, “Your Highness” sports considerable non-royal dialogue more appropriately found in today’s gutter.
Course language flows like a cascading river in the lurid land of Mourne, where we find the courageous, outgoing, and handsome Prince Fabious (Franco) returning from his latest epic journey, in which he delivers to his father, King Tallious (Charles Dance), the severed head of a cyclops as evidence of his victory battling evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux). His younger, slacker (not to mention cowardly) brother Thadeous (McBride) is the stay-at-home-and-party guy, who schemes to come out from behind his sibling’s overconfident, oblivious shadow. For cockamamie story purposes, Fabious’ new fiancée Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) is kidnapped on their wedding day and the brothers reluctantly unite with their knightly buddies, Thad’s squire-in-waiting Courtney (mop headed Rasmus Hardiker), and a mechanical crow named Simon (what that’s all about?) in an effort to rescue the fair maiden from Leezar. Along the traitorous road they find treachery, evil, a full-frontal eunuch, a five-headed serpent, and Isabel (a stunning, sometimes bare-bunned, and pre-pregnant Natalie Portman), a warrior lass with a similar axe to grind against the common foe.
The times are dark and the dialogue more so in the screenplay by McBride and Ben Best (co-creators of HBO’s “Eastbound and Down” series). This is particularly so when the men visit the Great Wize Wizard, an effete, alien (his see-through skull looks like a Dollar Store Lava Lamp), and kissing host who cultivates “glorious plants” and “powerful herbs.” The problem is the queasy, jerk-off humor that the writers probably had a drug-induced riot scripting, doesn’t translate well on the big screen. When some unsuspecting, churchgoing grandparents opt to take in a matinee because of the Oscar-size talent on the billboard, they’ll be out in the lobby asking for a refund quicker than you can spell masturbate.
Like the fish fingers that pop up on a dining room table late in the film, everything and anything ends up on screen because the filmmakers assume it looks out-of-place funny. But it’s like watching a mawkish, anything goes Three Stooges film, but those revered boys NEVER wore a Minotaur’s penis around their necks as a warrior’s trophy. Ugh.
For someone who really liked Green’s first feature, the low-budget but dramatically strong “George Washington,” I’m getting tired of the low brow direction his career is headed. McBride and Green, buddies since their days at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, came up with the idea for “Your Highness” while working on Green’s second feature “All the Real Girls,” a 2001 love/lust story starring Paul Schneider, Deschanel, Shea Whigham, and McBride. Years later they fashioned their bawdy fantasy for something attractive to a certain male demographic (although some ladies will probably show up to ogle at Mr. Franco), but this weird, wacky, weedy medieval adventure ends up mostly putting the “R” back in romp.
Posted on April 8, 2011 in Reviews by Elias Savada
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