YOUR HIGHNESS

A Buttf**king Work Of Batsh*t Lunacy

(Distributed by Universal Pictures, Your Highness is now available in an Unrated version in the following formats: DVD, Blu-ray + Digital Copy, or at Amazon Instant (BUY/RENT). It opened in theaters everywhere on Friday, April 8, 2011. Visit the film’s official website to learn more.)

For pretty much every reason across the board, I am wayyyy toooo close to Your Highness to write a review of it. But now that I’ve seen it in its finished form, I honestly don’t know how anyone could write a review of it. And not because it’s too awful or too great for that. It’s that something this insane mocks the very logic of critical interpretation by its mere existence up there on the big screen. I said it when I read the script for the first time however many years ago, I said it again when I flew to Belfast to witness this bonkers idea being brought to legitimate life, and I’m saying it now just as it’s about to be released: Your Highness plays like the crass fantasia of a pair of smart-ass adolescents who get into a riff-contest in after-school detention over the idea of hijacking the set of a proper medieval action film—these smart-ass adolescents being genuine disciples of said genre, that is—and spraying a can of stink bomb all over it.

Already, reviews have begun to spew forth from disgusted, ashamed, and disappointed critics who think Your Highness is a misfire of historic proportions. They think that David Gordon Green has officially sold his soul to the devil by turning his back on his earlier high-minded self and jumped off the cliff of sanity into some sort of crude, gaping abyss. But I think these folks are forgetting something. For as heartfelt and soulful as it is, let’s be honest here: George Washington is one seriously weird f**king movie. Further, if you take Green’s film school shorts into account (particularly Will You Lather Up My Rough House?), Your Highness seems more like a natural progression than a reckless abandonment of the past. To be totally honest, this movie might very well be Green’s crowning achievement, pants down, ass out, middle fingers gleefully flung toward the rafters.

Here’s another way of looking at it (and this is the filmmaker in me talking, I realize). By making this movie, David Gordon Green and Danny McBride have done what all of us have dreamed of doing since we too fantasized about making movies as adolescents. They have used their current success to truly test the boundaries of what they can get away with, and they’ve done it at a time when the Hollywood industry is as timid and fearful and insecure as it has ever been (which is saying something). They have caged their inner scaredy cats and swung for the f**king fence to produce something on a grand scale that has no direct precedent (or at least one that I can recall). Creatively, they’ve managed to tap into their inner smart-asses and be as unselfconscious and freewheeling as possible. On the scale at which they were working, it’s hard to fathom how difficult this actually was to do.

I personally was never a fan of the fantasy genre (Krull, Yor, The Hunter From The Future, etc.) and I don’t think every joke lands in Your Highness. But I have to confess to thinking about The New World as I watched it. Sitting in a multiplex, surrounded by normal folks who had most likely never even heard of George Washington, let alone seen it, it was gleefully batsh*t incomprehensible to me that this movie was about to be flooding multiplexes throughout the country. For that reason alone, I think cinephiles and movie lovers in general should be thrilled about a movie like Your Highness, which plays it weird and unsafe every step of the way.

Speaking of batsh*t incomprehensible, I’m also convinced that Your Highness will be the first and only Hollywood picture in which the primary demographic will turn out to be a tie between raunchy 13-year-old heterosexual boys and flamingly homosexual 60-something men. One thing’s for sure: Your Highness is, without question, the most brashly homoerotic studio picture since Jackass Number Two. Put that in your cup and poke it.

In preparation for—or to decompress from—this crazy thang, be sure to visit/revisit my set visit reports, which cover background, mid-ground, foreground, and other various grounds with regards to (yes, my friends) David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, and this indescribably ballsy movie…

YOUR HIGHNESS SET VISIT — An Introduction
YOUR HIGHNESS SET VISIT – Parts One and Two
YOUR HIGHNESS SET VISIT – Parts Three, Four, and Five
YOUR HIGHNESS SET VISIT – Part Six

— Michael Tully

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5 Responses to “YOUR HIGHNESS”

  1. cp Says:

    Not trying to be a smart ass, but what would you say the difference is between this (which I haven’t seen) and Black Knight (which I actually kind of love)? Maybe also Year One, Ishtar, and a lot of Mel Brooks’ genre work? Is it the auteur director? The fact that 2 of the 3 leads (if not McBride as well) are critical darlings?

    Bottom line, I couldn’t tell from what you wrote if you thought the movie was good/entertaining/worth seeing. If you get a chance, please elaborate. Thanks.

  2. Tully Says:

    cp,

    Not trying to be vague, but these guys are my friends so for me to talk about the film on “good/entertaining/worth seeing” terms seems like a conflict of interest. Even writing this piece probably has people saying, “Yeah, okay, whatever dude.”

    More to the point, it’s hard for me to comment on this type of film since I’m so naive about the fantasy genre in general (I feel like I did see Black Knight though I have no recollection of it, and I haven’t seen Year One either). So even without my personal baggage, I wouldn’t feel comfortable writing a review of this type of movie.

    Having said that, I’d have to say that what distinguishes YOUR HIGHNESS from the other movies you mentioned is that the trajectory of this particular project from tossed-off-idea to actual-multiplex-spectacle is exceptionally mind-blowing and, in many ways, inspirational. I can’t prove this, but my hunch is that BLACK KNIGHT didn’t come to life in this manner.

    Not sure if that clarifies anything or not…

  3. cp Says:

    Got it. Thanks for the thoughtful and prompt response. I think it’s safe to say the reason this got made is that these guys are hot right now, and with heat comes leverage to (within reason) do pretty much whatever you want (mind you I’m saying this as a Danny McBride/Rough House fan.) Not that everything’s an automatic green light, but Treme wouldn’t have happened before The Wire.

    What’s more interesting to me is that Observe and Report (one of my 2009 faves) happened the way it did.

  4. Tully Says:

    You are totally right that OBSERVE AND REPORT is actually as apt a comparison as you can make to YOUR HIGHNESS, even removing the Rough House/college buddies element from the equation. Jody and David both have a burning drive to push buttons and see just how much they can get away with, and even though that sounds mischievous and frisky, it’s not like they don’t want their movies to do well and be appreciated. It’s just that their minds are both so very TWISTED.

  5. HOME VIDEO PICKS – Hammer to Nail Says:

    […] Highness (Universal) — Read my semi-review of this subversive romp, which includes links to a somewhat extensive set report I embarked on […]

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