Written by Danny McBride and his frequent collaborator Ben Best, Your Highness takes McBride’s standard comedic persona (an overconfident layabout) and transports it to a sword-and-sorcery setting. McBride’s loser prince Thadeous smokes a lot of the fantasy-world equivalent of pot, swears constantly and relentlessly chases impressionable maidens (and one fierce female warrior played by Natalie Portman). The incongruity of the vulgar stoner showing up in a Lord of the Rings-style fantasy quest movie is about the only joke Your Highness has to offer, and the movie repeats that joke long after it’s lost its novelty.
Thadeous is reluctantly dragged along by his handsomer, braver and far more popular brother Fabious (James Franco) on an adventure to save Fabious’ bride (Zooey Deschanel) from an evil wizard (Justin Theroux). Along the way they team up with Portman’s Isabel and face down a number of dangerous monsters, while Thadeous eventually learns how to be an honorable warrior instead of a cowardly whiner. The plot just kind of meanders from one set piece to the next, which wouldn’t be a problem if the jokes were funnier or more varied. But McBride and Franco seem like they can barely even bother pretending to be in a fantastical world, and the movie doesn’t so much parody the fantasy genre as just haphazardly imitate it.
As he did in Pineapple Express, director David Gordon Green stages action sequences as if he were making a serious movie, and in a way that competence undermines the humor. Your Highness isn’t a serious fantasy epic, but it isn’t much of a comedy, either.