Fresh off an Academy Award nomination and win, respectively, James Franco and Natalie Portman are back — in a Middle Ages-set stoner comedy that seems like it may well have been built around its titular pun, Your Highness. The film also stars Danny McBride, Zooey Deschanel, and Justin Theroux, and it’s directed by David Gordon Green, whose impressive range has taken him from George Washington to Pineapple Express without a major misstep.
There’s no doubt that Your Highness is a stupid movie — that it was, in fact, conceived and executed by a lot of smart people who knew all along that they were making a stupid movie. The question is, has it turned out to be a great stupid movie, the kind that provides hours of altered-state hilarity and demands repeat viewing on DVD, or an irredeemably terrible one? So far, the critics are split. Take a look at what they’re saying after the jump.
Andrew O’Hehir at Salon is firmly in the “terrible” camp. The headline on his review is, in fact, “Is Your Highness the worst movie ever made?” The following quote should give you a sense of O’Hehir’s rhapsodic revulsion at the film:
Gingival surgery would be more fun than watching this brain-draining, spirit-sucking attempt at a stoner spoof, which combines the cutting edge of frat-boy wit, the excitement of a mid-’80s made-for-TV action flick and the authenticity of a Renaissance Faire held in an abandoned field behind a Courtyard by Marriott. A bus trip from Duluth to Sioux City would be more fun, and don’t think I didn’t do my research: That takes 13 hours and costs 96 bucks.
Although O’Hehir may be the most extreme in his hated of the movie, but he’s not alone in thinking that — in the words of Jon Lovitz’s The Critic – it stinks. At the Village Voice, Nick Pinkerton has his own set of choice metaphors: “Your Highness plays like a dirty-joke blooper reel made by the cast of a junky sword-and-sorcery epic, streaked with carelessly contemporary-sounding blue humor, blunt profanity replacing the naughty-naughty, tankard-sloshing, heaving-bosom ribaldry that goes with the period setting.” At The Hollywood Reporter, Kirk Honeycutt cracks, “Things get so bad you half expect a cameo by Nicolas Cage.”
Despite these seemingly definitive pans, Your Highness does have its supporters. While he admits that the film is hit-or-miss and doesn’t see the all-star cast as a strength, Keith Uhlich at Time Out New York enjoyed it:
[T]he belly laughs do come, many of them courtesy of the mechanical bird companion who recalls Bubo from Clash of the Titans or the hookah-smoking wise man who’s like a creature from The Dark Crystalcrossed with Chester the Molester. It’s often the peripheral sights in Your Highness that tickle the funny bone as opposed to the too-easygoing ensemble — almost as if Green and his collaborators fully designed an off-kilter world, but let the people inhabiting it just wander around.
Drew Taylor at indieWIRE is unequivocal in his support, arguing that “the playful, irreverent spirit, gutbusting crudeness and general go-for-broke-ness that the cast and crew — led by director David Gordon Green — approach the material has turned, as if through magical transmogrification, a potentially messy experiment into a ridiculous, yet bold, stylistically winning genre-mash up that will leave you in stitches.”
But perhaps the most surprising stamp of approval comes from New York‘s often dour David Edelstein — who was less than enthusiastic about Franco’s widely celebrated 127 Hours. In his review, Edelstein calls Your Highness “bad taste done right” and writes that it “conforms to popular (bad) taste in ways you might find alarming. But on the far side of alarm is nirvana.”
This split decision may say less about the film itself than the highly subjective nature of comedy. And we’re pretty sure that the sober, daytime setting of advance critics’ screenings bears little resemblance to the way most, say, college kids will be consuming the movie. So, have the naysayers convinced you to cross this one off your list, or are you still planning to get — er, see — Your Highness this weekend?
Watch the trailer: