December 25, 2012

Retroview: Your Highness

A Retroview Review. (side note: I'd love to see how my opinion of this movie holds up now that I'm so far removed from my first and only viewing)

I hate Stoner Culture. There are probably a slew of different reasons, but the main one is that it holds its own ignorance and stupidity in high regards, and then chooses to highlight that quality. For the most part, this means I also hate stoner comedies. I feel like my time is being wasted on jokes that aren't funny unless you're stoned. I understand why the writers think their bad jokes work, the thing is they usually just aren't funny, and the only reason they get a reaction is because the target audience is high as balls. Movies you have to be stoned to enjoy, to me, seem like a waste, because if you just made a good movie to begin with, you'd be able to enjoy it regardless of your state of consciousness. So the idea that a "smart" movie that feeds into stoner culture seems kind of impossible. And it might've been had it not been for a few select entries. Half Baked and Pineapple Express are obvious ones, as is Harold and Kumar go to White Castle (My opinion there might be swayed by my penchant for the absurd, however) and maybe the Bill and Ted series (I think it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to imagine them hitting a bong between scenes).

But the trailer for Your Highness just looked too funny to pass up, so I went with Ben and Beth last weekend and saw the dang thing. And while it was not perfect, it was darn good.

Not being the most intelligent thing I'd ever seen, it still had an awful lot of clever qualities that I enjoyed quite a bit. Your Highness is, at it's heart, a Fantasy farce. But what separates it from the farces we've suffered through in the past couple years is that it doesn't directly spoof any particular work (book, movie, etc), but instead takes the elements in the genre and highlights their ridiculous nature, without ever slighting the genre. In a sense, it honors the genre, though not to the extent that the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy does (/will hopefully do).

Examples of the bad: Vampires Suck, Scary Movie 4.
Examples of the good: Shaun of the Dead, Airplane, Your Highness

Our hero Thadeous, played by Danny McBride, seems painfully aware of the ridiculous pageantry that often plagues the traditionally melodramatic genre, which is what makes him instantly relatable. He brings a voice of reason, or, at least, an indispensable voice of someone a little more level headed than we normally get from typical Fantasy fare. This allows the viewer to relax a little, saving the need to suspend their disbelief for the more ridiculous parts (specifically near the end).

It should probably be mentioned that a lot of the laughs come from hearing a fantasy/medieval character say curse words and talk unabashedly about sex, but I think the humor stems from more than just humanity's penchant for potty jokes. Sure there have been comedies set in a medieval era, robin hood men in tights, holy grail, but this one is different in that our hero is the one who stands with us, at once critiquing the genre and playing a role in the genre. His uncertainty and often sarcastic attitude is relatable, his fun loving nature is admirable, his potential to be a good person is encouraging, and his undying love for his brother makes him someone who isn't hard to root for.

The other characters are mainly there to keep the story/quest going, and luckily the actors/actresses cast seemed perfect in every instance. James Franco plays Thadeous' dashing brother who would normally be the lead had this been a straight fantasy flick, and Natalie Portman plays the strong willed ass-kicking female warrior, with whom Thadeous becomes smitten with almost immediately. They play straight wo/man to McBride as he stumbles along, often being charmingly stereotypical fantasy characters. The way they believe in honor and justice is honestly very endearing.

(Zooey doesn't really have an amazing part in the movie, but her charm feels equally indespensible)

By the end of the movie I loved just about every character, and even felt a sort of pity for the antagonist, the evil sourcerer Leezar played by Justin Theroux, because of how sheltered and bizare his upbringing must have been to get him to the point where he would act in such a deplorable manner. I mean, by the end of it I definitely felt like he should be wiped from the planet, but there were a few minutes in the middle that he made me laugh.

After we saw Your Highness, we saw Hanna, which was by far a better movie. Ben has an awesome write up of that one here

I don't think anything else really needs to be said about that movie, but with a movie like Hanna to compete with, I felt like Your Highness may end up being forgotten. In the end, I'll probably go back and watch Your Highness more often then I'll re-watch Hanna, and I think there's something to be said about that.

-Luke Hunter James-Erickson

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