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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Your Highness

August 8th, 2011

Your Highness - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

The early part of 2011 is a time that the box office industry would love to forget. Not only was the box office constantly being compared to 2010, which had Avatar's record-breaking run boosting the overall numbers. But were also a number of films that missed expectations. Your Highness was one such film. It was directed by David Gordon Green, who previously directed The Pineapple Express. It was co-written by Danny McBride and Ben Best, who co-wrote The Foot Fist Way and Eastbound and Down. Plus it starred James Franco and Natalie Portman, both of whom were coming off Award-winning years. Despite all of this, the film crashed and burned at the box office, opening in sixth place and quickly disappearing. The question is why?

The Movie

Your Highness is a Sword & Sorcerer film about two brothers: Thadeous and Fabious. The film begins with them both on a mission. Thadeous is to secure a peace treaty with the Dwarves, but instead sleeps with the Queen and is sentenced to death. (In his defense, the Queen is played by Iga Wyrwal, so I'm totally going to give him a pardon on that one.) Meanwhile, Fabious has been sent to vanquish one of the evil wizard Leezar's minions, a cyclops. Not only does he succeed, but he rescues Belladonna and the two of them are to wed.

At first, Thadeous is less than pleased, as it means just one more day where Fabious is the center of attention and Thadeous will be ignored. But when Fabious tells Thadeous that he will be the Best Man, that perks him up (until he hears other knight bad-mouth him behind his back). Sadly, the happy day is interrupted by Leezar, who has come to reclaim Belladonna, whom he needs to bare him a child, which will help him rule the Kingdom. (The two moons have to align and then... you see it in the prologue.)

Fabious has no choice but to ride out on another quest, this time to save Belladonna, again. However, this time Thadeous is given a choice by their father, King Tallious, go on the quest with his brother and the Knights Elite, or be banished from the Kingdom. He chooses the former.

So Fabious and Thadeous ride out with the Knights Elite, as well as Thadeous's squire, Courtney. And along the way, they find a new ally in Isabel, but there are also dangers, and betrayal(s). Of course, the "betrayal(s)" part causes us to run into spoilers, so I'll end the plot there.

Your Highness is essentially two films. Firstly, it's a rather typical Sword & Sorcerer epic about a group of adventurers going on a quest. Secondly, it's a stoner comedy filled with modern profanity, sex & nudity, crude humor, etc. Combining these two genres is inspired, but the execution is mixed. For every joke that works, there are two that don't. Sometimes it's the clash between the Faux Olde English that we are used to hearing and the more modern profanity. I'm not opposed to profanity, but perhaps if it were more cleverly hidden in the medieval prose, it would have been less jarring and perhaps even funnier. Some of the cruder humor felt unnecessary. And again, I'm not opposed to crude humor, but I do like a little more wit than seen in some of the jokes, or more subtlety. Finally, and this is definitely a personal preference, in my opinion a little Danny McBride goes a long way. I think he's best in supporting roles and when forced to carry a film, his schtick wears thin.

On the other hand, while I call it a rather typical Sword & Sorcerer epic, it's well done in that regard. The quest has an epic feel to it, the production design is great, the monsters look cool, and Natalie Portman does kicks ass. The action scenes are really well done and Natalie Portman's performance is done completely straight, which was a wise move. Overall, this part of the movie feels like an updated 1980s era movie of the genre. Or a movie made by someone who has played far too much D&D and is just having some fun with the genre. I liked that part of the movie, and if the filmmakers had concentrated more on that aspect, it would have been a better movie. But I too have played too much D&D, so keep that in mind.

The Blu-ray also includes both versions of the film, the R-rated and the Unrated. However, the Unrated version is not that much different than the R-rated version. There are a few more graphic lines and an extended scene that might have pushed the film past an R-rating.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD start with an audio commentary track with David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, James France, and Justin Theroux. The four participants have great chemistry together and you get a good mix of humor and information. There are several alternative and deleted scenes, as well as five minutes of outtakes. Finally, there's Damn You Gods, a thirty-minute making of featurette. That's a good collection of extras.

The Blu-ray has a few additional extras, but they are mostly pretty small. The longest of these are the extended scenes, but there are shorter segments for Line-O-Rama, which is four minutes of alternative ad-libs, and behind-the-scenes with Leezar, and finally outtakes with the Wize Warard, which I'm not even going to attempt to explain. It's nice to have the exclusive extras, but none of them push the technology.

The film does look very impressive on Blu-ray with sharp details, showy colors, deep blacks. The various nature shots look the best, but there's something about a forest that just looks good in High Definition. (I think it's the combination of colors, high details, contrasts, etc. A good forest scene shows off everything Blu-ray has to offer.) The audio was equally strong with clear dialogue, while the surround sound speakers and the bass get a real workout. The score especially emanates from the rear speakers with power, although there were a few times I wished the score were not quite as powerful.

The price difference between the DVD and the Blu-ray is pretty extreme, at least on The differences in the list price is 33%, which is great for this type of release. On the other hand, with the discounts, the Blu-ray costs 77% more, which is way too much. Last Minute Update: Yesterday when I wrote this, the Blu-ray was $29.99. Now it is $19.99, which is a great deal.

The Verdict

Imagine a Venn Diagram with three circles: D&D, Stoner Comedy, and Danny McBride. Your opinion of Your Highness will depend on where you fit in that diagram. If you dislike all three, stay far away. If you really like one of them or mostly like two of them, then it is worth a rental. If you like all three, then it is worth picking up. However, check the prices of the DVD and the Blu-ray Blu-ray before you buy and try and grab it while it is still $19.99.

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Filed under: Video Review, Your Highness