Bil’s rating (out of 5): B. USA, 2011. Universal Pictures, Stuber Productions. Screenplay by Danny McBride, Ben Best. Cinematography by Tim Orr. Produced by Scott Stuber. Music by Steve Jablonsky. Production Design by Mark Tildesley. Costume Design by Hazel Webb-Crozier. Film Editing by Craig Alpert.
The creators of Pineapple Express reunite for yet another comedy that is too busy laughing at itself to actually be funny. Danny McBride is thoroughly unappealing as the slovenly prince of a kingdom constantly living under the shadow of his much more handsome brother (James Franco). McBride is chided by his father the king (Charles Dance) for not going out on quests, but he gets his chance when his sibling’s new fiancee (Zooey Deschanel) is kidnapped by an evil wizard (Justin Theroux) and the two set out to save her. Along the way they meet a warrior babe (Natalie Portman) who is out to avenge her family in an adventure film that goes beyond the wink-wink cleverness of The Princess Bride or the sassy anachronisms of the Shrek movies to include lots of unintelligent gay jokes, smugly humorous F bombs and immature sexual lewdness. The Apatow gang and director David Gordon Green, who seems to have left behind the pretentious boredom of his earlier movies in favour of ridiculous self-congratulatory comedy, seem to think that they’re really creating something special by adding modern-day vulgarity to tales of noble knights and lasses; a rudimentary education would tell them that Spenser and Chaucer are not Jane Austen, these kinds of stories were already filled with the most licentious bawdiness and that adding penis jokes and the word “motherfucker” to their dialogue is not actually taking apart a solid tradition of primness. What kept these kinds of stories alive throughout the centuries was not a lofty morality but a wonderfully clever irony and shrewd human observation that is nowhere to be found here, replaced instead by lowest-common-denominator humour and exploitative nudity. McBride is a washout in the role—really memorable comedy, particularly in the vein of parody, requires suffering, and he is neither as comically eccentric as Jim Carrey nor viciously self-deprecating as Jack Black to be in danger of becoming a star—while Deschanel looks like she phoned in a favour to her All The Real Girls director and had no idea what she was getting herself into. Theroux seems to be the only one having any fun, and his hilarious hairstyle contributes to the film’s sole inspired performance.