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Once upon a tawdry time, there was a prince with a problem.
Actually, Prince Thadeous has several. Mostly, though, his problem is his older brother, Prince Fabious. The aptly named royal is everything Thadeous is not. Earnest. Heroic. Loyal. Masculine. Beloved. Good with a sword. In other words, he's got skills. And he's adored by their father, King Tallious.
Thadeous, in contrast, is a sullen, narcissistic, resentful, Olympic-level slacker, more interested in sipping ale, toking on his hookah, committing adultery with dwarf queens and terrorizing sheep with his goofy squire, Courtney, than rescuing damsels from maniacal mages.
Speaking of damsels and mages, Fabious has barely begun basking in the glory of his latest exploit—rescuing the virginal maiden Belladonna, whom he intends to marry, from the clutches of the wicked wizard Leezar—when said prestidigitator turns up at the wedding and re-abducts her.
Leezar's nefarious plan for the pure Belladonna? To claim her virginity at the moment two magical moons merge into one—a once-every-100-year occurrence. It's an act that will impregnate her with a dragon the wicked Leezar intends to use to subjugate the entire world.
Fabious, of course, is determined to save her from such a wretched fate. But the crown prince will need some help with this one … from his herb-smoking brother. He'll also need the mysterious, bow-wielding tigress Isabel who has her own bone to pick with Leezar.
Fabious is as good-natured, thoughtful and kind as Thadeous is full of spite. Fabious asks his brother to be his best man and repeatedly tells him how much he loves and cares for him. Fabious also believes the best of his brother and honestly thinks he can relinquish his laziness and become a hero.
Eventually, Thadeous does exactly that. He's given the opportunity to abandon his brother (whom Leezar has captured) and become king. But he says no to that selfish path and (along with Isabel) comes to his brother's rescue.
Amazingly, in a film as otherwise depraved as this one is, Fabious remains committed to protecting Belladonna's virginity until the pair weds, despite Thadeous' mockery of his chastity. Isabel, meanwhile, is the last of an avenging group of knights dedicated to protecting the world from the evil Leezar seeks to unleash.
The movie is set in a magical, medieval milieu. Leezar is a dark practitioner of these arts—as are the three seer-like women he collectively refers to as Mother. All of them repeatedly cast lightning bolt-like spells that hurl opponents backward. Other spells include freezing opponents in midair and teleporting. One of Leezar's diatribes hints at the omnipotence he'll wield if his moon-powered supernatural seed successfully impregnates Belladonna with a dragon.
The brothers visit a alien-looking, gnome-like character known as the Wise Wizard. This odd seer uses hallucinogenic smoke from pipes to prophesy and to give Thadeous and Fabious instructions. He produces a magic compass, which they must use to find the lair of a Minotaur, where they'll find a unicorn-horn sword. That weapon, he tells them, is the only implement capable of killing Leezar.
Thadeous, Fabious and Courtney meet Isabel when they're taken captive by a wild, primitive tribe of naked and nearly naked folk. When their leader, a fellow named Marteetee, sticks his hand into a magical, sand-filled bucket, it produces a five-headed, snake-like monstrosity that attacks the protagonists.
Characters frequently refer to "gods," though there's rarely explicit mention of an afterlife or specific spiritual beliefs. One exception is Belladonna's statement that she was "praying every day" for rescue from Leezar. The multi-eyed "soul of the cave" where the Minotaur lives gives Thadeous a vision of the future in which he's king.
Crass, crude, vulgar and obscene visual and verbal references to sex permeate Your Highness. Chief among these is a scene involving the Minotaur. The mythological creature (with a bull's head and human torso) finds Courtney in it's maze and begins to rape him. (We see the naked beast on top of the man making sexual movements.) Isabel arrives and plays a flute to subdue him. And his full erection, which is plainly visible, subsides as she plays—right before Thadeous impales him with a sword. Unable to claim one of the Minotaur's horns as a trophy, Thadeous cuts the large penis off and wears it as a necklace for the remainder of the film, sometimes using it as a puppet to talk to other people.
Marteetee is attended by perhaps eight to 10 topless women, most of whose breasts are visible throughout an extended scene. We see a woman's bare backside as she tries to seduce Thadeous. And Isabel goes swimming in what looks to be a skimpy thong and bikini-top undergarment. Later she tells—and shows—Thadeous that the thong is actually a chastity belt. We see a lock on the front and hear about the witch who put it there.
The Wise Wizard is also a perverse one, requiring sexual favors in exchange for prophecies. Both Thadeous and Fabius must kiss the creature on the mouth, as well as manually stimulate him. (Motion is shown.) Thadeous says that the wizard molested him as a child.
Belladonna's impending rape by Leezar is repeatedly called the "F‑‑‑ening." She's tied on a bed, and her screams prompt the mothers to "possess" her with some sort of sex-crazed entity. So when Thadeous begins to untie her, the bedeviled woman tries to put the Minotaur's genital remains in her mouth. (The movie opens with another woman tied down and about to be raped.)
Fabious continually displays his brotherly affection for Thadeous in ways that have homosexual overtones. He kisses him on the mouth, gives him a massage and thrusts his hips behind his brother while trying to teach him sword fighting. Later, one of Fabious' former lieutenants confesses that he's always been in love with him.
Another visual gag implies oral sex between Courtney and Fabious. A dwarf servant named Julie, who appears to be male, gets his clothes completely ripped off, and we see that he has no genitals of either kind. We hear frequent verbal references to all manner of sexual things, including promiscuity, masturbation, anatomical features, anal and oral sex, lubrication, sexual slavery and sexually transmitted infections. It's implied that Thadeous, Courtney and some unkempt villagers, all stoned, may have had sexual contact with sheep.
Your Highness is also saturated with violence, much of it graphic, gory and severe. Vicious battle scenes result in multiple deaths and woundings, including slit throats, a scalping, dismemberments, impalings and decapitations—several of which feature fountaining geysers of blood.
Brutal fisticuffs and sword battles are the norm. Characters get whipped, tossed from carriages, run over by carriages, kicked in the crotch, hurled against rocks and generally beaten about. The scene in the Minotaur's labyrinth features corpses in various stages of decomposition. Fabious returns to the king's castle proudly carrying the head of a Cyclops he's killed. As a rite of initiation on his first quest, Thadeous is forced by Fabious and his men to eat the heart of a large creature they've just killed, and we see him take a big bite.
Thadeous and Courtney survive a hanging at the hands of dwarfs because the gallows isn't tall enough. Isabel describes the awful things Leezar did to her brothers, and she fantasizes about the joy she'll take in skinning the wizard.
Crude or Profane Language
About 40 f-words, 20 or so s-words and half-a-dozen misuses of God's name (including two pairings with "d‑‑n"). There are about a dozen milder curse words as well. And we hear at least a dozen vulgar and obscene references to parts of the male and female anatomy.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Thadeous and Courtney are, not surprisingly, quite fond of smoking herbs. It's never stated, exactly, what these plants are, but they have the same effect on folks as marijuana, leaving smokers stoned and giddy. Thadeous smokes various pipes and a hookah.
The so-called Wise Wizard's prophecies depend upon smoking hallucinogenic herbs. He, Thadeous and Fabious all partake. Leezar violently plucks the wings off a Tinkerbell-esque female dragonfly and snorts her powdery remains.
Several scenes picture various characters drinking (presumably) ale at celebrations and in a pub.
Other Negative Elements
Despite Courtney's longsuffering devotion to Thadeous, the prince mocks his squire mercilessly, repeatedly suggesting that he'd be willing to leave Courtney for dead if needed.
Until his character transformation at the end, in fact, it's likely Thadeous would leave anyone for dead if it meant saving his own skin. He's a confirmed coward who tricks no one when he tries to convince Isabel otherwise. Thadeous is also sexist, believing that he should be able to defeat Isabel in combat (which he cannot) simply because she's a woman. In one conflict with Fabious he says, "Being your brother is a curse."
Isabel initially deceives Thadeous and Fabius, stealing an important artifact from them before reconciling and joining up with Thadeous to save Fabius.
Imagine, if you dare, what might have happened had someone slipped something psychedelic into Peter Jackson's drink during the making of The Lord of the Rings. Or dared the brash British comedy troupe Monty Python to make the sequel to Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Or sent the infamous stoners Cheech and Chong to highjack the set of The Princess Bride. The result might have been a little bit like this farcical fantasy caper.
Except that even Cheech and Chong at their most stoned likely never would have dreamed up the dismally debauched, dirty ridiculousness that is Your Highness.
And that's exactly what director David Gordon Green intended.
In the film's production notes, Green says, "Your Highness represents the 11-year-old me, who used to stay up late, sneaking in to watch dirty movies on cable. A lot of the movies that I was drawn to at that time were some pretty trashy sword and sorcery movies—movies that had a lot of boobies and violence."
Here's hoping that kids who are 11 now never see the result. In fact, here's wishing nobody I know or may ever meet sees the result. Because Green has more than succeeded in reimagining and proudly trumping everything he might remember about what is tawdry and trashy. Violent and vulgar. Oh, and putrid and obscene, too. He tosses in the rapist Minotaur's sexual anatomy to up the outrage ante. But he hardly needed to. The rest of the film is already so foul that you—and I certainly don't say this to minimize it—barely even notice with so much muck swirling around on the screen.
Green, though, is especially proud of the scene, saying, "The Minotaur suit that the guys over at Spectral Motion made for us worked phenomenally. It looks convincing as an animal, a monster and a sex offender." Then he added, "I have a feeling that just as much as my parents used to ground me for watching these kind of movies, they might ground me for making it."
Danny McBride as Thadeous; James Franco as Fabious; Natalie Portman as Isabel; Zooey Deschanel as Belladonna; Rasmus Hardiker as Courtney; Justin Theroux as Leezar; Toby Jones as Julie; Charles Dance as King Tallious; Damian Lewis as Boremont
Good media discernment is about guarding our eyes and hearts before we watch or listen. And it's also about grappling with the entertainment we do see or hear. That's why the Plugged In Blog is devoted to guarding, discussing and grappling.
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