Saturday, April 9, 2011

Your Highness

MPAA (R) CNS/USCCB (O) Roger Ebert (1 star) Fr. Dennis (2 ½ stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert’s review

Your Highness (directed by David Gordon Green, written by Danny McBride and Ben Best) is a type of movie that I knew is out there, that I generally enjoy and that I’d find somewhat embarrassing to add to my blog. Still after reviewing a number of far more serious movies, what a relief it was to see something goofy, yes adolescent, reminiscent of jokes and stories that one’d hear by a campfire as a kid and later as a teen. Your Highness is something of a send-up of sword and sorcery stories, though that assumes that most such stories are deathly serious and many, in fact, are not.

In the movie, Danny McBride plays the loser younger prince Thadeous to an older ever dashing, ever successful, ever smiling brother prince Fabious (played by James Franco) who actually loves his younger brother very much, and probably thinks more of him than Thadeous thinks of himself. But that’s what makes Fabious so simultaneously irritating and fun to watch: He loves _everybody_, he’s _always_ smiling and always successful, whereas Thadeous lives life in the shadows, usually obscured by a cloud of dope, with his only friend Courtney (played by Rasmus Hardiker), Thadeous’ squire.

Things begin to come to a head when Fabious comes back successfully from yet another quest with the head of a cyclops, and a damsel that he rescued named Belladonna (played by Zooey Deschanel) who he wishes to marry. The cyclops had been a minion of the kingdom’s great nemesis, the evil warlock Leezar (played by Justin Theroux) and Belladonna had been Leezar’s prisoner. The King, Tallious (played by Charles Dance), so proud of his ever questing older son, decrees that so it shall be, and a wedding is set for the next day. Ever smiling, ever optimistic, Fabious asks his younger brother to be his best man. Thadeous accepts even though others in Fabious’ questing party make it clear that they feel he’s not worthy. Thadeous, thus gets stoned the next morning and blows off the wedding and Boremont (played by Damian Lewis), Fabious’ right-hand-man in this questing adventures, steps-in to take Thadeous’ place. In the meantime, it also becomes somewhat clear that Belladonna may have been a pretty “damsel in distress” but precisely because Leezar had kept her as a hostage for most of her life, she didn’t exactly have the refined manerisms of a princess.

None of this comes to matter, however, because Leezar appears at the wedding along with his _three_ very creepy mothers, steals Belladonna from the ceremony, and carries her off to his tower. The stoned Thadeous, of course, who along with his squire, spent the day harrassing and dispersing sheep of a bunch of similarly stoned peasants, misses all of this, and comes back to a castle heavily damaged from the battle in which Leezar took Belladonna, and back to a distraught Fabious, who now decides to go out on quest once more to retrieve the bride that he loves. The King, still furious at the absence of his younger son to all these events, orders Thadeous to join Fabious on this quest or else to never come back.

And so they depart the next morning. Much ensues, much of it both funny and very, very crude. As an example, Fabious insists that at the beginning of the quest they visit the “Good Wizard of the Woods” and joyful that Thadeous is with him this time, is happy to introduce him to said wizard. He tells Thadeous that “since a child,” he’s _always_ gone to the wisard for good advice at the beginning of every quest. When they get to the wizard's abode, it’s clear that the “good wizard,” while indeed capable of giving good direction (in this case through a magical compass that he gives Fabious and Thadeous) is one smiling but very creepy guy. Everybody seems to see the creepiness of the wizard except for the also ever smiling Fabious...

During their many adventures, the two also meet Isabel (played by Natalie Portman) a fearsome and very, very hot warrior who is out to avenge the deaths of her father and brothers. And it turns out that their quests are somewhat linked because Leezar was probably responsible for their deaths.

The movie is often very crude.  There is some rather unnecessary nudity in the movie (though not by way of either Deschanel's Belladonna or Portman's Isabel) but rather as a result of the questing party encountering a group of Amazon-like female warriors, who are led a very, very creepy male chieftain. Then there’s a very, very crude scene near the end of their adventure involving a rather aroused Minotaur that the party encounters in a requisite labyrinth (where minotaurs always live...).

Once more, the movie is definitely “not for everyone,” and people have asked why actors of the caliber of James Franco and Natalie Portman or for that matter Zoey Deschanel would "waste their time" with a movie like this.  But I do think "I get" part of the appeal (for both the actors and the audience).  It's a movie can be very entertaining for those who’ve liked these kind of stories or for those just want kick back and relax after after a long week (or after taking themselves _way too seriously_ for some time).  It must have been a blast to make this movie! 

And lest we get too high on our horses, I do wish to remind folks here that the Bible’s book of Judges contains many stories that can best be understood ones told as jokes or stories around a campfire some 3500 years ago. Of particular note is the story of Ehud the Assassin who slew the King of Moab with a homemade dagger, the story noting that the King of Moab was so fat that his rolls of fat swallowed the dagger in its entirety so that Ehud could not pull the dagger back out (Judges 3:12-27). Not denying the story’s possible or even probable historicity, it still sounds like a story that would have been quite popular among young men sitting around an Israelite campfire “back in the day.”

Anyway, please don’t live your lives like this, but (for some of you) enjoy the film ... ;-)

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