“Your Highness”

             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 roles. 

            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, Greenville , Texas