On revisiting a film most people believe undeserving of a revisit, I realized something about David Gordon Green’s Your Highness: this mess of a film is not evidence of a filmmaker who has sold-out, it is evidence of a filmmaker who had an opportunity to make a passion project thanks to his commercial standing and blew it.
For anyone who has followed this fantastic filmmaker’s filmography, the film is quite perplexing. And as strange a passion project this may have been, revisiting this epic stoner fantasy film reveals a filmmaker who has not become lazy or complacent with success.
Your Highness was a disappointment to most. Green’s previous film, the violent stoner comedy, Pineapple Express, is a classic among stoner films. And yes, I realize how silly that sounds. The film was an opportunity for Green to finally shift to comedy, a path he has been talking about taking since his first feature.
Your Highness is not a typical studio comedy, and the very fact this film was financed is evidence of Green’s commercial cred. Nonetheless, while the huge box-office intake of Pineapple Express put confidence behind Green and his creative choices, Your Highness was still a dangerous bet for any studio.
The film, for those who have yet to see it, is most easily described as an epic stoner fantasy. And still, that description doesn’t quite explain it accurately. The film is not a parody of fantasy films, it is instead a comedy fantasy film. An absolutely absurd, one at that. It is shockingly obvious and subtle at the same time.
Much like Pineapple Express, this film becomes funnier with each viewing as subtle jokes begin to reveal themselves. The problem is that most viewers aren’t going to give it multiple chances.
Green has been called a sellout by fans and haters alike, yet his comedy chops have been begging to be revealed since his early work. Your Highness is an unlikely passion project from a filmmaker who was once called the next Terrence Malick by Roger Ebert. While not written by Green himself, his friends and frequent colleagues took the task while Green was behind them creatively the entire process. It was a film he had been wanting to make for years, but couldn’t find the financial backing to do so.
Green had been experimenting with improv since his first film, and has been moving towards the mostly improvised film. With Your Highness, his biggest budget and scale film to date, the lack of script backfired. While the action is choreographed surprisingly well and the special effects are top notch, the comedy is what suffers as potentially great scenes fall flat. Employing puppets, men-in-suits, practical effects and some fantastic use of CGI, the possibility of creating a true 80’s style sword and sorcery epic was there. Instead, we have a film where a man is raped by a minotaur.
The fact this is a comedy is frankly irrelevant when it comes calling Green a sell out. It was a passion project that he was probably not yet ready to handle.
Hopefully this will be the last mess of a film for Green, who has walked the fine line between mess and perfection before, and luckily landed on the right side of the line more often than not. Your Highness is a film that, I believe, may one day will become a cult classic; as for now, it remains the one blemish in an otherwise outstanding filmography.