Prince Thadeous (Danny McBride) is a ne’er do well in an enchanted kingdom who wastes his life puffing wizard weed, pursuing maidens and boozing it up whilst envying his dashingly heroic older brother, Prince Fabious (James Franco). When evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux) kidnaps Fabious' fiancé, Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), to serve as a virgin sacrifice in a black magic rite, King Tallious (Charles Dance) orders his deadbeat son to help save the maiden. Accompanied by their trusted manservant Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker), the princes set off on a rollicking romp of an adventure in search of the fabled Unicorn Blade.
One suspects the surprisingly fine cast featured in this shockingly sloppy sword and sorcery spoof were drawn less by the risible script co-written by star Danny McBride than the chance to work with the eclectic David Gordon Green. Green has had an odd career. From starting out as an indie hero with artful dramas like George Washington (2000), All the Real Girls (2003) and Undertow (2004), he took a surprising detour into laddishly vulgar farce via Pineapple Express (2008) and has continued in that vein with the back-to-back failures The Sitter (2011) and Your Highness.
Just as leading man Seth Rogen co-scripted Pineapple Express, here McBride - a supporting player in the previous film - steps up to bat. This has the germ of a good idea, spoofing the inherent trippiness of such endearingly oddball Eighties fantasy films as Krull (1983), The Dark Crystal (1983), the original Clash of the Titans (1981) and The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982), rather than the more stately epics that followed The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001). However, given McBride’s stock-in-trade appears to be endless knob jokes, stoner gags and homophobic slurs, the end result is a witless bore. Whilst the bawdy tone perhaps befits the pseudo-medieval setting, Green’s lumpen direction coupled with McBride and co-writer Ben Best’s utter lack of finesse ensure such scenes as Franco forced to masturbate a gay Yoda-like sage, an encounter with a tribe of topless women, and a minotaur with a raging erection, unlikely to amuse anyone save fourteen year old Dungeons & Dragons fans.
Fifty minutes in, Natalie Portman enters as kickass warrior babe Isabel, who is out to avenge the death of her brothers and serves as Thadeous’ unlikely love interest. Despite this being something of a “what is she doing here?” moment, the Oscar winning actress contributes a spirited turn that, coupled with James Franco and Zooey Deschanel’s endearingly game performances, prove among the film’s few diverting aspects. For the most part though, almost every gag falls flatter than a troll slain by a plus one vorpal blade.
American indie director with a strong visual sense. Film school graduate Green made a big impression with his debut film, the powerful drama George Washington, while 2003's All the Real Girls was similarly well-received. An unexpected change of pace appeared when he directed stoner comedy Pineapple Express, the largest success of his career to that point, following it up with the widely reviled Your Highness. In contrast, the acclaimed Joe represented a return to his indie drama roots. After a lot of series television, he enjoyed his biggest hit with the 2018 Halloween sequel.