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.

downredJames Franco

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.

sidegreenNatalie Portman

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.

upgreenDanny McBride

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.

sideredZooey Deschanel

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.

downredDavid Gordon Green

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.

sideredUniversal

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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Comments

  • The Winchester says:

    Fogelson is the marketing guru? Because his marketing plans on all Universal films of late have been godawful. Look at the trailers for Paul, Your Highness, and Bridesmaids, which could've been better but were instead marketed as bland gross yuk-fests. (Although I guess in Your Highness case, it was).
    Also, he should be fired for that Larry Crowne trailer alone. No need to see that pile of vanilla pudding, as I know everything that happens in the course of 2 minutes.

  • John M says:

    This post's based on a lot of wobbly conventional wisdom. But whatever.
    I don't understand how McBride would come out of this unscathed: virtually every review targets him as Unfunniness Source One.

  • Mike the Movie Tyke says:

    I disagree. The movie reeks (ha!) of laziness on two sides--Danny McBride and partner writing a half-assed script and believing he's so popular and talented he can schtick his way through the rough spots, and whoever at Universal gave $50 million to make a feature-length Funny or Die skit.
    Pineapple Express was made for about half the budget and made about $87 million, this film could have been made for $20 million, maybe without Portman and Franco but after seeing the trailers viewers realized it's just a goofy boondoggle and they're not bringing much to the table. (I don't think either of them get hurt in the process, though. Franco does what he wants and Portman is a perpetual media darling.)
    It's McBride, Green and Universal who get hurt the most--for laziness, pure and simple. For $50 million you better have a damn good concept and script. This didn't, period.

  • RAD says:

    I thought this movie was hilarious and well made satire of all sorts of fantasy films. I got exactly what I paid for... and of course pretentious critics are going to bash it. It will be a future cult classic - like MacGruber or Mars Attacks! - both of which were 'bombs'. Had Universal opened this last fall it would have done $15-2o million opening weekend.
    All of the people involved will be fine... it was just bad timing. Bad release strategy by a panicky Universal.

  • Scraps says:

    Right or wrong, I can't help but think of 'Year One' when I hear about 'Your Highness'...

  • SunnydaZe says:

    What about "Land of the Lost" on Danny's resume there? I would call him a major player in that film> A huge budget stoner comedy which tanked but is finding a cult audience. (I admit to being one) Maybe stoners just don't leave the house??

  • Brian says:

    Your Highness had some flat jokes and boring stretches, but it also had some of the funniest lines I've heard in a movie. Portman's bit about fire in her beaver and Theroux talking about his mothers (yes, plural) moistening his bride to be for the f*ckening are classics. But as another commenter pointed out, a bunch of tight assed, prudish, politically correct critics (Michelle Orange, that means you) had to tear it apart. It will become a cult classic, no doubt about that.

  • KevyB says:

    I would have to disagree there. Obviously the marketing for Hop has worked quite well, though it started off rocky. I didn't hear much interest in that movie until the commercials moved away from the rabbit and onto the chick. That's a sign someone in marketing is figuring out how to highlight a movie's strong points. I'm not sure Paul was all that easy to market, as it is kind of a stupid plot that relies solely on what its stars bring to it. As for Your Highness, it was widely considered a horrendous film, so how do you market a comedy when you don't have any funny parts to show? Since Bridesmaids hasn't been released yet, I have to wonder if the crappy trailers are a sign of a crappy "comedy".

  • quen says:

    I would just like to say that this movie was probably one of, if not the best fantasy films made in a long time. Yes it had a few parts that were hard to take but, look at movies like transformers 2 and 3. Just a crap load of cg and cute faces( rushed story). And it made millions. Your highness tryed something most movies wouldn't, not following the pack. I hate that it didn't do well. Now every studio will be scared to touch fantasy movies.

  • In November of that year, McQueen signed with luxury goods conglomerate LVMH to head the Givenchy design team. But he was not given enough control over his designs and the relationship between him and LVMH soured. The reason for this acrimony could have something to do with the fact that the maverick Eastender had sold 51 per cent of his own label to LVMH's great rival, Gucci, in December 2000 for a reported $80 million.

  • In 1996 he was the mastermind behind arguably the most famous classic tuxedo suit for women, 'Le Smoking', and was also the first designer to use black models in his runway shows.

  • The designer was increasingly plagued by ill health, however, and in 2002 he announced he was quitting fashion, bringing a 40-year career to close

  • Tracy says:

    You simply copied somebody else’s story

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