How do you explain why a comedy isn’t funny?
It just isn’t. But no
self-respecting critic could just leave it at that, so, here goes the whining.
We’re somewhere in the Middle Ages, somewhere in Europe, some time when
knights in shining armor could ride on quests to conquer dragons and Cyclops
(OK, mixed mythology) and rescue fair damsels in distress, and everybody thought
that was normal. Danny McBride’s
character, Thadeous, is the slacker brother left behind while Fabious, played by
an ever-smiling James Franco, wins his father’s favor and the populace’s
adulation with his gallant exploits. (We’ll
try to ignore the awkward opening bit about Thadeous escaping the wrath of a
swarm of angry dwarves.) Naturally,
Thadeous resents the success of the dashing, handsome, athletic Fabious, and is
in such a funk about it all that he even refuses to attend Fabious’ wedding,
where he was supposed to be the best man. However,
Fabious forgives him, because he has more pressing matters:
the evil Leezar (Justin Theroux) has used sorcery to take back his
captive princess, Belladonna (an incredibly underutilized Zooey Deschanel).
The rest of Fabious’ mighty men of valor have betrayed him, because
they are in a funk that they weren’t even invited to the wedding (was it
supposed to be funny that these macho-warriors had their panties all twisted in
knots because of a social snub?). So
Thadeous and Fabious set out together, along with Thadeous’ page, Courtney (Rasmus
Hardiker), guided by their magic compass, which they promptly lose to another
wayfarer, Isabel (Natalie Portman).
Here, we pause to admire Natalie Portman, the actress, fresh off a an
Oscar-winning performance for the dark and foreboding “Black Swan,” for her
willingness to invest herself in a silly and sordid farce, where scatological
humor abounds, and some of the juvenile leering is even directed at her.
A true actress isn’t afraid to take chances with a different kind of
script, or play against type, and we are taken aback to see the teenage queen of
“Star Wars,” regal and aloof in her royal planetary position, and then
intergalactic senatorial responsibility, now descend into juvenile raunch humor.
Unfortunately, Portman isn’t any funnier than anyone else in this disastrous
epic, but we do know that she is fearless in her selection of diverse acting
Yes, the occasional use of gutter language can be funny, if utilized
sparingly and inserted strategically. But
its overuse merely serves as a poor cover-up for a lack of originality.
Perhaps if Danny McBride weren’t also the co-author, he wouldn’t have
had to switch gears and suddenly make himself heroic, thus losing any
effectiveness he might have developed as the lovable lazy cynic.
The nudity here is as gratuitous as the language, and after considerable
overuse also ineffective as either erotic, sensual, or shocking.
Yes, it’s supposed to be a sexier homage to Monty Python or even Mel
Brooks, but even they would have blanched at the way the preening superficiality
displaces all hope of significant humor.
Everyone associated with this flat-on-its-face failure should just ignore
it, and hope it goes away quickly.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor,
United Presbyterian Church,