‘Your Highness’ takes lowest road
In the grand tradition of following an Academy Award with the worst film of one’s career, Natalie Portman appears today in “Your Highness,’’ a radioactive turd disguised as a sword-and-sorcery comedy. She’s not alone: James Franco, this year’s Oscar-nominated Oscar host, hits another career speed bump. The true guilty parties, though, are David Gordon Green, a onetime director of delicate art-house dramas (2003’s “All the Real Girls’’) who wants to sell out but has no idea how, and Danny McBride, who co-wrote the script and stars as the oafish Prince Thadeous.
The wastrel second son of an aging king (Charles Dance), Thadeous is tired of taking a back seat while his older brother, Prince Fabious (Franco), slays the dragons and gets the babes. When an evil wizard (Justin Theroux) kidnaps Fabious’s virginal bride-to-be (Zooey Deschanel), the brothers embark on a rescue quest accompanied by Thadeous’s scrawny courtier, Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker). Portman, as a kick-ass lady knight on her own mission, doesn’t show up until 50 minutes in and appears to be eyeing the exits when she does.
The most painful movie so far in a year that’s already scraping the bottom of the barrel, “Your Highness’’ is a tedious, dung-colored misfire that sullies the genre of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail’’ and “The Princess Bride.’’ Taken in small doses, in movies such as “Due Date’’ and “Tropic Thunder,’’ McBride can be hilarious, and he played well with Franco in Green’s “Pineapple Express,’’ comedy gold next to this. As a lead, he’s unbearable, a charmless lout who thinks being gross is the same thing as being funny. “Your Highness’’ is thus potty-mouthed, peepee-obsessed, and devoid of such comedy basics as timing or punch lines.
When in doubt, McBride makes a joke about playing with his junk. The movie’s best gag — I mean the word in both senses — involves a severed Minotaur penis worn around the hero’s neck. Everything else comes in below that bar. I felt like scraping the scuzz of this movie off my skin with a butter knife.
There exists an audience for witless swill, of course: collegiate sheep for whom f-bombs and boner jokes represent “rebellious’’ comic subversion and who think the title’s stoner pun is the height of cleverness. Dude, where’s my taste? Everyone else should just quietly back away. “Your vulgarity masks your pain,’’ Prince Thadeous is told at one point. Maybe, but it’s the reason for ours.