Who Wins and Who Loses in the Your Highness Debacle?
Over the weekend, Your Highness, to put it bluntly, tanked. With a budget somewhere in the range of $50 million and a recent Oscar winner and Oscar nominee headlining the cast (to say nothing of Pineapple Express director David Gordon Green behind the camera), the Universal comedy couldn't do better than a sixth-place finish. Couple that with terrible reviews, and you've got yourself a nice little disaster. But what will be the fallout to the major players involved? Let's take a look.
It's been a rough few weeks for James Franco. What should be a victory lap of sorts for his Oscar-nominated performance in 127 Hours has been spent, instead, defending his Oscar-hosting performance with an excuse along the lines of thinking nobody cared about the Oscars. Had Your Highness been successful, it could have provided Franco a much-needed counterpoint to the Oscar backlash. That didn't happen, and the backlash persists.
The big question now is what this all means for Franco's Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Put it this way: For all of Franco's continued presence in the media, the guy has never headlined a bona fide blockbuster. He was a supporting player in all three Spider-Man films, and he shared top billing with Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express -- Franco's most financially successful lead or co-lead role to date. Now Franco is expected to open Apes -- a hopeful franchise reboot budgeted around $90 million -- by himself against the second week of Cowboys & Aliens.
Your Highness is no more a blip on Portman's filmography than something like Stealth was for Jamie Foxx -- or any other delayed or shelved film boasting a new Oscar winner. Between the consecutive box-office successes of Black Swan and No Strings Attached (the latter of which Portman co-produced as well), she has accrued a considerable well of Hollywood goodwill that will require more than Your Highness to drain. Even should her other two upcoming releases -- the gritty, also-shelved indie Hesher and the Marvel tentpole Thor -- fail, Portman's career investment in both at this point is a fraction of Franco's with Apes.
For now, at least. The fact is, more people know who Danny McBride is today than before Your Highness was released -- and McBride (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Ben Best) is the best part about the film. In addition to his HBO series Eastbound & Down, the extent of his film career amounts to the microbudget indie cult comedy The Foot Fist Way (his only previous leading role) and a handful of scene-stealing smaller roles in films like Pineapple Express and Observe and Report. Your Highness should itself become a cult favorite as time goes on, yet another point in McBride's favor. Ultimately he remains an unknown quantity when it comes to his box-office potential. That said, all eyes in Hollywood will be on his next film: 30 Minutes or Less, co-starring Jesse Eisenberg. If McBride bombs with a third 2010 Oscar nominee, he could be in some trouble.
This was the definition of a thankless role. Who knows what Deschanel -- who historically seems to choose films somewhat carefully (save for The Happening) -- was thinking when she agreed to take the role of perennial damsel in distress, Belladonna? The good news for the otherwise likable actress: Not many people saw Your Highness, so not many people may realize that she appears in the film-- let alone filmed a scene where she's trying to put a severed minotaur penis into her mouth. (This is true.) Certainly no one will blame her for the film's failures. Plus, Deschanel's next project is starring as hanger-on extraordinaire Pamela Des Barres in HBO's I'm With the Band: Confessions of a Groupie -- which, from all appearances, is something more on track with her usual roles.
Certainly, the failure of any film is never good for the director involved. And I'm sure, after the success of the similarly raunchy stoner opus Pineapple Express, the pressure was there for Green to try to capture lightning in a bottle twice. What makes Your Highness tough for Green is that unlike McBride, his frequent partner in crime, Green doesn't have the luxury of making a couple of quick, buzz-inducing cameos to help right himself after this critical and financial bomb. Worse yet, returning to stoner comedy so quickly after proving himself with such nuanced marvels as George Washington, All the Real Girls, and Snow Angels seems irrational at best -- follow-up pressure notwithstanding. If Green's next comedy, The Sitter starring Jonah Hill, fails, Green is in some serious danger of being labeled a one-hit (no pun!) wonder.
It's not like Universal would ever celebrate a box-office bomb, but it's just the latest underperformer current Uni bosses Donna Langley and Adam Fogelson can blame on their predecessors Marc Shmuger and David Linde. (Though Fogelson is hardly off the hook as the studio's longtime marketing guru.) Anyway, how bad could it be? After all, the studio released Hop, which just finished its second consecutive weekend at the top of the box-office charts. At this point, Langley and Fogelson have bigger summer bets like Fast Five and the aforementioned Cowboys & Aliens to concern themselves with -- though it will be interesting to see how Universal handles Bridesmaids -- its other raunchy, irreverent, R-rated second-quarter comedy -- in the wake of this washout. Suggestions, anyone?
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