A Stoner Fantasy Review: Your Highness
Sometimes a film comes along which redefines a genre. It brings a new, vibrant life to traditional storytelling structures. It makes you look forward to the new tales that will be inspired by it.
Your Highness is not one of those films.
No, this film is a straight-up satire. It’s from the director of Pineapple Express which was the Seth Rogen and James Franco film that tried to carve out a difficult niche. It was a stoner action film.
Your Highness, on the other hand, is a stoner fantasy film.
And, even on that premise, I don’t think it worked. The problem is that the various stoner film traits – drug use, vulgar language, blatant sexual comments – were applied so thickly that they proved distracting. At each and every turn, it served only one purpose: to completely pull you out of the story and draw attention to the fact that you were watching a film.
I’m not a prude. One of my favorite film makers is Kevin Smith, and you don’t get much more inappropriate and vulgar than him. But in his films, it serves to draw you into the film rather than distance you from it. Same with Quentin Tarantino. Yes, they could probably choose to use some other phrasing than the frequent f-bombs that they drop, but the phrasing fits perfectly to the characters and situations described.
In a traditional fantasy setting, though, these things just don’t mesh. Instead of being clever or edgy, like was no doubt intended, it’s just unnecessarily vulgar. Instead of making the characters more realistic, it makes them less so.
And therein lies the problem, because in a fantasy story you have already taxed your suspension of disbelief to the limit. In the average Kevin Smith film (Dogma excluded) the characters are just ordinary guys, doing their thing, and if one of them begins rambling off inanities like “Snoochie Boochies” while talking about drugs, that’s not stretching the limits of credulity all that much. You can still connect with the majority of characters on some level, because you have basic shared experiences. The vulgarity comes out of the characterization and only adds to the realism.
The characterization in a fantasy story is vitally important, because without a realistic character, you have nothing else to believe in. You can still have comedy while maintaining good connection to the characters. The best example for a fantasy film that was highly comedic, yet still drew the audience into the characters, is The Princess Bride. Your Highness is unable to maintain the balance between farce and reality. There is no connection if the characters are not realistic, and throwing in twentieth century slang and culturally-inappropriate language destroys the realism on every level.
Ultimately, that disconnect ruins Your Highness as a film and a story. As a series of random events – consulting with a perverted wizard, walking around with a Minotaur phallus as a necklace/trophy, being obsessed with getting laid in the middle of the quest, etc. – they’re funny enough as stand-alone gags, if that’s your sense of humor, but without anything to connect you to the storyline, they’re incredibly weak and, in my opinion, not worth anyone’s time.