Filmed in Northern Ireland, this garish comedy is 'gross, obnoxious and puerile'. Andrew Johnston loves it
It would be great to be a fly on the wall if Assembly bigwigs ever see Your Highness. The bawdy Universal Pictures comedy should offend sensibilities right across the political spectrum.
The film, which came about after a promotional visit to the US by Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, was shot in Northern Ireland, but the naked breasts, giant spliffs and severed minotaur’s penis are all Hollywood.
To give you an example of the kind of gag peppered – nay, smeared – throughout Your Highness, consider this scene in which Danny McBride’s weed-smoking, wench-chasing Prince Thadeous pursues a semi-nude female warrior into a forest (the movie was shot at picturesque locations around County Antrim – a nice coup for the Tourist Board).
‘It might be a trap,’ warns the more wholesome Prince Fabious (played by James Franco, taking a break from Oscar-worthy fare). Thadeous responds by saying the only thing the damsel’s chest will trap is his ‘warm spray’. Kenneth Branagh this ain’t.
Penned by McBride and Ben Best, and directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express), Your Highness represents a brave new era for Northern Ireland filmmaking.
It’s a world in which a tubby US comedian can cavort on the Giant’s Causeway with a prosthetic member dangling round his neck, and an evil wizard (played by Iron Man 2 screenwriter, Justin Theroux) can hatch a plot to rape a princess to create a dragon (or was it rape a dragon to create a princess? I lost track) from a lair inside Belfast’s Paint Hall Studio.
Incidentally, Leezar’s plot is the closest Your Highness comes to one. Generally, it’s that old story: slobbish prince envies heroic prince, heroic prince’s bride-to-be is kidnapped, slobbish prince comes begrudgingly to the rescue.
Along the way, Thadeous and Fabious encounter stoned peasants, a perverted, Yoda-like creature and Natalie Portman in a thong. It’s the kind of film where even the comic relief has a comic relief (Rasmus Hardiker of Lead Balloon and Saxondale is great fun as Thadeous’s gormless sidekick, Courtney).
Basically, Your Highness is a Mel Brooks movie with added swearing and hot babes. It’s a parody of the fantasy genre, showing the same respectfulness for the likes of Excalibur and Krull that Brooks brought to his horror spoofs Young Frankenstein and Dracula: Dead and Loving It.
The film also boasts lush locations, lavish sets, cutting-edge special effects and a cast of top-drawer supporting actors (Charles Dance, Damian Lewis, Toby Jones).
Sure, Your Highness is gross, obnoxious and puerile in the extreme, and some of the gags will be too cheap even for the intended teenage male market. But many of the laughs are of the out-loud variety, and it’s refreshing to see a film so unashamed to revel in its own absurdity.
If this is the kind of demented, anything-goes romp Hollywood comes up with when slumming it in Northern Ireland, then this writer for one hopes that Universal Pictures will be back this way soon.
Your Highness is showing at Movie House Cinemas now.