No Oscar for Natalie Portman, but the Fish & Chips Are Swell

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Your_resize.JPG
Frank Connor © 2011 Universal Studios
Portman, McBride, Franco, and Deschanel face down the wizard.
The Dinner : fish and chips at McCormick & Schmick's

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No Oscar for Natalie Portman, but the Fish & Chips Are Swell

  • No Oscar for Natalie Portman, but the Fish & Chips Are Swell

  • ">

    Your_resize.JPG
    Frank Connor © 2011 Universal Studios
    Portman, McBride, Franco, and Deschanel face down the wizard.
    The Dinner: fish and chips at McCormick & Schmick's (1103 First Ave.).

    The Movie: Your Highness at Pacific Place (600 Pine St.).

    The Screenplate: We recently saw James Franco and Natalie Portman at the Oscars, where they were, respectively, hosting and winning at the awards show. About the same time, the new trailer for Your Highness signaled their willingness to do a light stoner comedy, and that they didn't always want to be doing such serious dramas as 127 Hours and Black Swan. But neither plays a central role in Your Highness, a medieval quest spoof co-written by and starring Danny McBride, who certainly wasn't at the Oscars--unless he was working as a valet or busking for change. Cast to type (see Eastbound & Down, Pineapple Express) McBride plays the lazy, louche, resentful younger brother to Franco's valiant, quest-happy prince. Portman is some kind of forest warrior babe they encounter in a journey to rescue Franco's kidnapped bride (Zooey Deschanel, wasted). Of the four, Franco's charmer is the only one you could bring to a decent restaurant; the rest would be satisfied with flagons of mead and roast boar gnawed off the spit. Also, as table companions, their talk would lean mostly to insults and dick jokes. So where to take them to dinner . . . ?

    Actually, Your Highness does supply its stars with an initial celebratory banquet, arranged in a royal dining hall with all the medieval treats. This regal crowd eats local with a minimum of food miles between hunt and feast. But McBride's petulant junior-varsity prince skips such gastronomic occasions. Envious of his brother, feeling unloved by their father (Charles Dance), he'd rather hang out with the unwashed peasants; it's the medieval equivalent of teens getting stoned behind the 7-Eleven to avoid the parents' fancy dinner party back home.

    Thereafter, though an inn or two is visited during the quest, food doesn't figure much in the plot of Your Highness. This is odd, because all the drug references will surely give filmgoers the munchies. Before their quest begins, the regal siblings must visit a lizard fortune-teller (think Yoda crossed with a catfish), whose translucent skull resembles a pulsating jellyfish. Everyone tokes up before the future can be forecast. Unfortunately, for viewers, the prophecy is for a movie not nearly so funny as the trailers promised. Watching it sober or stoned won't make much difference, whether in a theater soon or on the couch later via Netflix.

    Unlike his Pineapple Express, which came from the school of Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow, director David Gordon Green fails to control the slacker-comedic mood of Your Highness. The insecurities don't feel real in this bro-bromance between two brothers (Franco secretly wants to climb down off his pedestal and chillax; McBride yearns to be heroic). The action sequences are shot hectically and too tight. And the expensive special effects are utterly ridiculous and wasteful when one considers what Monty Python did with similar medieval material 36 years before. (They had coconut shells for the horses' clip-clop. And actual joke writing.)

    So if the movie is a flop, let's eat already! McCormick & Schmick's is a chain eatery, though it tries desperately not to be seen as such. (As we write, the Portland parent company is in play with a $137 million takeover bid by a Dallas restaurant entrepreneur.) But, weirdly, the First Avenue McCormick & Schmick's still feels more personal and well-run than Your Highness. There's a reassuring continuity of servers and waitstaff. The happy hour is always well run. The valet parking crew is far safer and more responsible than the speed demons at the nearby Alexis Hotel. And the fish and chips ($17.95) are a big cut above the similarly named dishes served along the waterfront to unsuspecting tourists. Washed down with an IPA, the fish aren't too fried, and the fries aren't too lardy. It's a consistent dish that leaves you feeling better and fuller when you leave the restaurant.

    Not so with Your Highness. We can all--well, mostly all--fondly remember getting stoned, making fun of movies, and eating anything in sight during our younger years, without any ill effects the next morning. But those days are past for McBride and company. They're closing in on 40, an age when you begin to trade bad fries for fresh broccoli. Portman and Deschanel needn't worry, since they're both still lovely and talented and blameless in this Dark Ages debacle. Franco can possibly call it some kind of meta-media experiment for his Yale Ph.D.

    But for McBride, he'd better realize that screenwriting is better left to others. Otherwise, he may soon be parking cars in front of McCormick & Schmick's.

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