Your Highness

My strongest memory of seeing Your Highness in the theater was of the scene where Danny McBride's character decides that he wants to keep a souvenir from the minotaur he has killed, and after it proves too hard to cut off it's horn he cuts off the bull-man's manhood. Now, as someone who spent years drawing an online comic that was in no small part about minotaur dongs that scene was right up my alley, but I was well aware of how little traction my comic was getting and how little demand there was for jokes about mythological creature's wieners, so that scene stupefied me a little. What executive greenlit this movie thinking it was going to be a big crowd pleaser?

A second viewing answered that question: fourteen year old boys. My first experience with Your Highness was dominated by the weird touches that were right up my alley as a cult film sort of guy, but rewatching the film reveals how much there is in this movie that's straight up the alley of Hollywood's favorite demographic. Because I was raised by a father who cursed almost every time he sat down in or got up from a chair I tend to not notice profanity very much, so unlike a lot of critics I didn't pick up on the spoken vulgarity of the movie the first time through. (The physical vulgarity is unmistakeable - don't forget this is a film with visible minotaur dong.) However, when I was on the lookout for it, I noticed that this movie uses swear words the same way that an adolescent boy would use them: Danny McBride curses emphatically, proudly, repetitively. Once I locked into the fact that the vulgarity of the film had a specific flavor - not the nimble vulgarity of say, Veep, or the goofy vulgarity of say, the Lonely Island - but with the artlessness of someone who is often very angry but for no reason, I started to see how you could delude yourself into thinking that this movie would reach an audience.

"Artless", however, is not a word that's good to have associated with your movie. Good taste was clearly not the movie's goal (once again I will reiterate: minotaur dong), but there still needs to be some craftsmanship involved in framing that bad taste. Specifically, I think this sort of genre parody has to work both as the thing it's parodying and as a parody, which is to say that underneath the riffs on fantasy movies it needs to still function as an entertaining fantasy movie itself. It doesn't come close: the action is sort of competent but not really thrilling, and of all the actors the only one who seems like they could plausibly have put their same performance into a legit sword and sorcery movie is Nathalie Portman.

Which is why Nathalie Portman steals the whole movie. When Danny McBride says something filthy he says it in the patois of a modern sleazeball, underscoring how obviously far he is from the sort of prince from antiquity he's supposed to be playing. But when Nathalie Portman says "It is my legacy to stop anyone who wants to fuck to make dragons" she says it with an earnestness and lack of self consciousness that sells the joke. This is a boys club movie, one that's obsessed with breasts and weed and dudes busting each others balls, so it's a real testament to her talent that Nathalie Portman gets the strongest laughs.

Ultimately, however, all of the criticism in the world does not matter as much as one fact which I've highlighted in every paragraph I've written. You are either interested in a movie where there is full frontal minotaur or you aren't. And like I said, I've spent a stupidly large percentage of my adult life trying to think about jokes about the sex lives of monsters, so this is up my alley. If that doesn't sound like it's up your alley, well, I wouldn't recommend risking it, because there is definitely some weird sex stuff happening in the poorly lit corner down by the dumpster in this film.

Winner: Me

Your Highness on IMDB