(David Gordon Green, 2011)
How on earth did David Gordon Green, whose first two films - George Washington and All the Real Girls - were both sensitive, poetic, undeniably arty portrayals of the small-town South in America, how did he travel the distance to being director of Your Highness?
For here is a strange concoction; a quite brilliantly exact pastiche of the fantasy and sword & sorcery films of the 1980s, which skewers the tonal and narrative conventions of that genre and then yokes them to a stoner comedy - even the title is a weak joke - full of dick jokes. I mean that literally; the film makes much of the fact that one of the heroes wears a Minotaur penis around his neck for much of the climax. Some of the comic material is very funny, much of it is shockingly tasteless - the Jim Henson-style puppet who is a pedophile and molested Franco's hero as a child is one major lapse - and all of it is crude and obvious.
Most of the cast play it totally straight, allowing Danny McBride the majority of the big laughs as he gives yet another rendition of his usual inadequate, idiotic braggart persona. Even then, there is a limit to the number of times McBride saying "Shit" in a bad English accent is funny, and there are various spins on that gag throughout; Justin Theroux as a curiously underwritten and unfunny villain says "Motherfucker" as comedy-punctuation at the end of a stock villain speech.
It all ends in a big, generally straight action scene. Greens direction is competent and artfully recalls the 80s films which inspired this script, but all trace of the young genius with a unique sensibility and way of shooting the world has gone, and for all that Your Highness is sporadically amusing, that's a shame.