Remember Jim Henson? He was this great guy, sort of the ultimate puppeteer, his legacy living on through a plethora of ’80s classics. Well, Your Highness could care less, spoofing the iconic Henson in a sequence that should be considered a pit of embarrassment for James Franco, for Danny McBride it’s business as usual.
The film is just foul, producing no sense of comedic timing, wit, or flair. Highness tries to salvage its gags with vulgarity, a f-bomb here, a f-bomb there all it has to work with. This has nothing to with being offended; Paul was just as gratuitous and blatant, but it had the timing. It knew when to quit and when to strike. No one here got the message.
Your Highness doesn’t even remember what it’s trying to be, one second a parody of ’80s fantasy like Labyrinth, in another a lewd Conan riff, and elsewhere whatever it wants to be. The score, a mixture of traditional orchestrated themes and electronic synth, is all over the place, almost confused as to what it is supposed to matching.
Maybe it’s just trying to hard, the actors coming across as whiny, loudmouthed children. Highness is impossibly exaggerated and desperate, willing to go anywhere and do anything regardless of whether or not it belongs. There’s a funny cast here too, McBride hilarious in a number of bit parts and side character roles. As soon as he takes the reigns, it’s game over for some reason, a style of humor best served in doses. Here it’s spilling over. The handful of gags that do succeed in the McBride style are subsequently run head first into the ground either by repetition or lame follow-up.
Highness concludes with an electricity spewing finale, witches and wizards blasting away at each other as aimlessly as the film got here. Swords clash and evil doers are disposed off, three endings still on the way. It’s a movie that doesn’t want to end, desperate to include another masturbation gag before the day is out, as if didn’t ride that train already. It must want its audience to suffer further before it will forever leave the memory of the viewer.
Universal pushes out a generally glamorous encode for Your Highness, miles above what the clunker actually deserves. Detail is extraordinary at times, pans of forests rife with definition. Strewn branches and leaves on the ground are individualized, and the leaves still on the trees meticulously rendered. Moving closer, facial detail is on an equal playing field, McBride and Franco fully textured even if the camera pulls back a ways. Portman however shows some definite smoothing on her forehead, inconsistently applied as these things always are.
Chain mail and armor are intricate and beautifully sharp here, complex decoration not a problem. Some will find the miniscule level of aliasing at work when the camera pulls back marginally offensive, a quirk that is always quick to pass. In terms of general sharpness and expected definition, not much will disappoint here. The basic grain structure is kept at bay with no ill effects, hardly making a peep in terms of showing itself. What the grain preserves remains in full view.
Colors are intense, the greenery of the landscape carrying a brilliance and flesh tones blazing. Your Highness has no problem producing a full barrage of primaries, that until the finale when it, well, lands in familiar territory. The eclipse inexplicably coats the thing in the dreaded orange and teal, a lost opportunity considering how many streaks of light are passing through the frame. The contrast fights back, brutally assaulting the image and taking some of the irritation with it. Unfortunately, it tends to do so earlier too, although while in the process of delivering appreciable depth.
Black levels mark the only real concern, the first act in particular a bit of mess as it fights to keep them black. With alarming regularity they dip into a glowing blue, the sight frustrating and needless. It hampers the visual flair elsewhere, the precise detail suddenly not as crisp when it’s surrounded by a backdrop so clearly lacking in depth. Highness improves though, exteriors in the forest a marked improvement, and the ending battles in a grimy castle definitely superior. It’s a wonder what happened in the beginning.
Your Highness comes primed with a DTS-HD effort that wastes no time in proving its a showcase. A flashback action sequence dazzles with fantastic dynamics, lightning magic zipping by through the soundfield with no lack of aggression. Arrows fly in from off-screen, the tracking becoming the definition of precision.
A chase sequence through the forest after a double cross becomes the next highlight, a sterling example of how grand the stereos and surrounds can be utilized together. On the low-end, the sub will pour it on, horse hooves and flipping carriages delivering some oomph where needed. An extensive battle with a multi-headed (multi-finger?) snake dazzles, both in terms of its initial appearance (which is a wild earthquake) and its snapping jaws, always maintained with proper directionality.
Voices will swirl, swords will clash, and thunder will roar, the track offering just about everything you could ask for. Balance feels slightly skewered in favor of the action leaving dialogue a little behind, not enough that you’ll need to adjust the volume consistently.
Director David Gordon Green is joined by actors Danny McBride, James Franco, and Justin Theroux for a commentary track, leading off some extensive bonuses. Six deleted, two alternate, and four extended scenes are included, followed by a gag reel that’s funnier than anything in the movie. Damn You Gods is a half-hour making-of, far more honest and open than you would expect. A short bit of improv is contained in the line-o-rama, and Perverted Visions should have been popped into the outtakes. It’s just one scene of improv and laughing. A Vision of Leezar is a screen test, with D-Box and BD-Live access not far behind.