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DVD Review: ‘Your Highness’

★★★☆☆

Pineapple Express (2008) director David Gordon Green again toys with the ridiculous in adventure comedy Your Highness (2011). His latest jaunt offers a wealth of young Hollywood talent that includes James Franco, Academy Award winner Natalie Portman, Danny McBride and Zooey Deschanel. Prince Fabious (Franco) is brave, handsome and valiant in a medieval world where rescuing damsels, slaying dragons and conquering evil are the currency of “cool” and mere second nature to a heroic Knight. Thadeous (McBride) is his good-for-nothing younger brother who has opted for a life of weed, booze and easy damsels, avoiding danger at all costs.

When Fabious’ fiancé, Belladonna (Deschanel) gets kidnapped by the evil wizard Leezar, the king gives his deadbeat son an ultimatum: man up and rescue her or get cut off! This sets the royal brothers off an adventure where they encounter wizards, giant hand snakes, well endowed minotaurs, Dwarf Queens and the beautiful and captivating Isabel (Portman).

Your Highness is hilarious at times, full of all the farcical mishaps you’d expect from such a movie. The appalling attempts at English accent’s, made by McBride and Franco are pretty humorous and actually add to the humour, but the overall plot with its subsequently absurd moments of calamity lacks the real side-splitting laugh factor that has made similarly ridiculous films so successful in recent years. Some of its jokes are left dead in the water – like the wise whacked out wizard who actually turns out to be a pervert for example.

McBride and Franco compliment each other well on screen and the dynamic of their brotherly relationship, with the former depicted as the younger of the two is amusing in itself. Natalie Portman’s acting prowess is evident from the moment she speaks in a supremely eloquent English accent, emphasizing the hilarity of McBride and Franco’s attempts respectively. Her delivery of lines like “I must surprise a band of thieves and burn them alive one by one in a symphony of shrieks” provides a humorous take on the illustrious and poetic language we are accustomed to from traditional medieval tales depicted in film. Also, she provides a perfect counterweight to Thadeous’ cowardice as she portrays courage and strength making for a few more simple laughs.

The diverse nature of Your Highness’ cast does suggest that McBride (as the film’s writer) must have some serious pulling-power, as the likes of Portman, just off the back of an Academy Award for her lead role in Black Swan (2010) and Franco from an Academy nomination for his part in 127 Hours (2010), are clearly sought after right now. Throw the wonderful Zooey Deschanel into the mix and you’ve got a real hotbed of talent who are all seemingly prepared to make a mockery of themselves in the film for the pleasure of us as its audience.

Russell Cook