Your Highness (UK - BD RB)
Click here for our review of the recent medieval sword and sorcery comedy...
King Tallious' (Charles Dance) sons Thadeous (Danny McBride) and Fabious (James Franco) are very different. Whereas Fabious is a dashing, skilled warrior, Thadeous is a bit of a lazy oaf who's always been jealous of his brother. On the day of Fabious' marriage to the beautiful virgin Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), the evil sorcerer Leezar (Justin Theroux) attacks the wedding party and kidnaps the bride-to-be, intending to use her as part of a ritual that will allow him to birth a dragon to use in his quest to take over the kingdom.
When Fabious set out to rescue his beloved along with an contingent of his most trusted knights, including his best friend Boremont (Damian Lewis), Thadeous and his servant Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker) tag along. Tasked with retrieving the fabled Sword of Unicorn from a Minotaur's lair by the Great Wise Wizard, the party must face all manner of enemies, both natural and supernatural. Along the way they team up with a beautiful female warrior called Isabel (Natalie Portman) who also has an axe (and various other edged weapons) to grind with Leezar.
I managed to catch this one theatrically earlier in the year and I have to say I was somewhat underwhelmed. It had its moments, but I was expecting a bit more from a comedy packed with numerous big names, including Oscar nominees and winners. Still, I'm a sucker for all things Portman and I have enjoyed James Franco in some of his other goofy comedies, so I thought I'd give the film a second chance on Blu-ray in its extended cut form. Unfortunately my second viewing didn't really change my opinion of the film. While there are one or two funny gags there's nothing truly memorable and the frequent 'dick and fart' jokes are a step down from your average Kevin Smith movie, so they start to wear thin pretty fast. I did get a giggle out of watching Franco play a coiffured prince and there's some eye-candy in the shape of Portman and Deschanel, but I found myself constantly drifting in and out of the movie despite the sub-two hour running time. It's not a terrible film, but I expect more laughs from my comedies.
Although an E1 release in the UK the disc looks to be a direct port of Universal's US effort. Universal might get a lot of (deserved) flack for the video quality of their catalogue releases, but their newer titles are seldom less than excellent. Your Highness is no exception, offering as it does a great 2.40:1 (1080/24p AVC) transfer featuring a bright, bold colour palette that really pops. Skin tones are generally very natural, although they are pushed intentionally towards the warmer end of the spectrum at times, but even so this is perfectly in keeping with the film's visual style. Blacks are nice and deep and contrast is handled well, never looking too hot or washed out. Save for the occasional soft shot detail is impressive throughout, not just the facial textures and costumes in close-ups, but also the wider shots. Thankfully there aren't any obvious defect to spoil the party, as both film and digital artefacts are virtually non-existent. Generally speaking this is a very pleasing effort that offers everything you'd expect from the Blu-ray release of such a recent feature.
The film's primary soundtrack is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 affair that delivers the sort of thing you'd expect from this sort of movie. It's not the most dynamic track in the world, not will it stress your system to breaking point, but what it does it does well. Ambience is strong, particularly during the early crowd scenes at the castle and the wedding, where general chatter, cheering and music transports the listener into the world of Your Highness. Once Leezar shows up to kidnap Belladonna things kick up a notch, with energy bolts, flying bodies and the screams of the wedding party precisely placed around the sound-stage. Things continue in this vein as the film progresses, with the numerous battle sequences offering the track a chance to demonstrate some nice imaging. All of this is ably supported by satisfying LFE and dialogue that remains crisp and relatively clear throughout. I say relatively because there are a few instances where it becomes slightly buried, but it's nothing particularly distracting so it's not a deal-breaker. Like the video this is an impressive effort.
There's a pretty generous selection of bonus material to be found on the disc, starting with a commentary track from director David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, James Franco and Justin Theroux (with optional intro). Next up are a bunch of alternate scenes (02:13 HD), some deleted scenes (08:36 HD) and extended scenes (15:24 HD), which offer a few additional chuckles. A fairly standard gag reel (05:13 HD) comes next, followed by 'Damn You Gods!: The Making of Your Highness' (30:13 HD), a fairly lengthy making of featurette (by today's standards). 'Line-O-Rama' (04:03 HD) is the usual collection of alternate takes, 'Perverted Visions' (02:32 HD) is more of the deviant that is the Great Wise Wizard, and 'A Vision of Leezar' (02:57 HD) is the best part of three minutes in the company of Justin Theroux as he makes a variety of silly noises.
I'm slightly disappointed to report that what is a great Blu-ray Disc is only really let down by the quality of the feature itself. Don't get me wrong, it's far from the worst film I've seen this year, but I just didn't get enough laughs out of Your Highness' particular brand of lowbrow comedy (and this is coming from a Kevin Smith fan). Still, I'm sure you can all make up your own minds as to whether or not you like the film and for existing fans this disc is a bit of a treat. The audio-visual properties are great—to the point that I went back and forth between eight and nine for both—and the extras are plentiful and in-keeping with the comedic style of the main attraction. If you enjoyed Your Highness at the cinema feel free to disregard the feature portion of the review and buy without hesitation, but if you prefer intellectual comedies you'll probably want to give this one a miss.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 8th August 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, LPCM 2.0 Stereo English
Extras: Audio Commentary, Making of, Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel, Line-O-Rama, Featurettes
Easter Egg: No
Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Rasmus Hardiker, Justin Theroux, Toby Jones, Damian Lewis, Charles Dance
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy and Fantasy
Length: 105 minutes
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