“I shouldn't even be here! I will probably die on this quest, Courtney definitely will!”
Director: David Gordon Green
Writers: Danny McBride, Ben Best
So when I saw the trailer to this movie, I actually got somewhat excited. What I was hoping for was a fantasy film that somehow tapped into what really happens in RPG’s. Yes I’m a dice roller from way back, and all those heroics you see on the screen, the teamwork to end an ultimate evil, a group that only thinks of the greater good, it’s all a load of crap. Things go to hell pretty quickly, and the only thing players normally concern themselves is with survival, leveling up and getting that awesome sword he read about in that book that he wasn’t supposed to. Yep, I couldn’t wait for the ribbing to begin, and while occasionally the movie hits that right note it never succeeds fully. Time to see what went wrong.
I’ll start on the acting as it’s wasn’t the worst thing in this movie. Say what you want about James Franco but he plays the naïve heroic prince pretty well, it’s just with the lack of focus the film has, he sometimes seems lost. Danny McBride has done this role before, and being one of the writers meant he was probably the most sure footed of all the actors, the problem is he plays his guy as a dick and doesn’t have that much character growth, or more importantly the growth seems heavily forced. Sure I’ll laugh at what he does, but it won’t make me give a crap about him. Now I can’t believe I’m saying this but Natalie Portman is atrocious in this movie, she just doesn’t seem to know the character she’s playing. Also her acting choices just don’t gel with everyone else’s less than serious tone. With the side characters, some worked, others didn’t, but the main reason why I won’t get into them is that I just didn’t care. Most were there to be the bearer of one joke and then leave. Oh and poor Zooey Deschanel, she is so much better than the thankless role she was given.
The plot of the movie is pretty simple, Prince Fabious (Franco) has his wife to be (Deschanel) kidnapped by the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux). Prince Thadeous (McBride) is forced to join his brother on a quest to rescue her. While such an A to B plot should have kept the movie focused the movie is really lost and never seems to have momentum. The problem is that a lot of the movie was ad lib. This is probably why some of the more serious actors like Portman have so much trouble. While it’s fun to kind of screw around with the fantasy conventions, the genre actually lives and dies on its story. Hence with the it being all over the place, it really destroys what could have been an awesome movie.
The humor is also pretty lacking in the movie, with most of the laughs supposed to be coming from the characters swearing in this fantasy world. It’s funny for the first two or three times but after a while you just wan the movie to get into something a little more meatier. There are a few times when the jokes do hit, and these were the little winks to the nerd crowd that I was hoping for. Actually maybe they weren’t there for that reason, but I’m sure many a role player would have gotten a hearty laugh. In truth I laugh out loud about two times. This is not a very good sign.
There are some ideas in the world, which are pretty damn cool. When the hero’s are in the arena, I thought the idea behind the monster was pretty well though out. However the ideas never seem to belong in the same world. Now the question could be asked, why does that matter in a movie that is making fun of the fantasy world? As I stated above the Fantasy genre needs a solid world and plot to thrive. A movie that is trying to be a funny version of that also needs a solid world to make the foundation of the jokes. Sure they may be books, but take for example the Discworld series. They do fantasy comedy so well.
I would not recommend this movie to people. I laugh out loud twice, maybe giggled to myself another 5 or so times. This does not bode well for a comedy. It has some decent actors and ideas, but its decision to ad lib most the movie completely unravels it. If you are of the mind that you have to go and see this movie, then rent it. You may find some things you laugh at, but going to the cinemas would be a waste of your money and time.