“The Princess Bride” (1987) FILM REVIEW
Written by Jambareeqi
Posted 1st March 2019
When a little boy is feeling sick, his grandfather offers to read him a story called “The Princess Bride”, the boy isn’t interested at first, but the more he hears, the more engaged he becomes.
This book centres on a commoner woman called Buttercup and a farmboy named Wesley, who are madly in love, but they can’t afford to marry, so Wesley goes off an adventure to seek fortune. When Buttercup sadly assumes that Wesley has been killed by an infamous pirate Dread Roberts, she reluctantly agrees to wed the smarmy Prince Humperdinck; who only wants to marry her to contrive a conspiracy.
When a group of outlaws kidnap Buttercup, they are tracked down by a man in black and the prince. While the prince is far behind, the man in black comes face to face with the kidnappers, taking down each one single handedly through wit or strength. At first, we assume that this masked man is Dread Roberts, but when Buttercup knocks the man in black down a hill, he’s revealed to be Westley!
Wesley is unfortunately captured by the prince though, who sends our brave hero to the torture pit of despair, where he is made to suffer. Luckily, two of the bandits from before, Fezzik the giant and Inigo the Spaniard, have become charmed by Westley, they want to work with him to break into the prince’s castle, so that Westley can save Buttercup and Inigo can avenge his father.
I remember the first time that I saw this film, it was at my Auntie Helen’s, all the grown ups got excited to put it on, I was curious why all the adults were so giddy about a fairytale movie, but then I saw the film, and it became a favourite in my house. This is the magic of “The Princess Bride”, a fine example of doing family entertainment right, it speaks to everyone, no matter how old they are, because it has such a universal appeal, and I still love it to this day.
It’s a film that exemplifies the term “Sometimes simple is all you need”, because it embraces it’s basic formulas for all they’re worth, with so much unapologetic devotion, celebrating love and condemning evil. While most films do attempt to rely on the bare essentials of storytelling to charm audiences, they end up becoming boringly average, but what sets “The Princess Bride” apart is it’s sophisticated execution, unique sense of humour, and sheer passion.
The screenplay was written by the book’s original author, William Goldman, which could be a red flag for most, because authors tend to struggle to transition from text to screen as writers, but Goldman really excels. The dialogue is heavy, a driving force for most scenes even, but it’s not a bunch of monotonous exposition dumping, it’s all natural banter that helps develop characters or move the story forward.
There’s a remarkable wit to the way characters talk, it’s smart and sassy, but never pretentiously smug. Whether it’s being delivered by a hero or villain, a line can kill the audience with it’s self aware irony; using smart vocabulary and rhythmic conversation to give us belly laughs. This is what makes the movie so quotable to this day, there’s so many iconic catchphrases and quips that can be easily used in everyday context for fun.
But the film isn’t all talk, it can really bite when it comes to it’s action, providing a variety of confrontations, ranging from fantastically strange to physical combat; both of which are as exciting as each other to watch. The fencing scenes are swiftly energetic, but easy to follow, with genuine swordplay skills helping us believe in action, and director Rob Reiner always takes advantage of the sets to add gymnastics or danger to a duel.
Our characters are straight forward in principle, but dimension is given to each one thanks to the genius writing, we love the good guys and despise the baddies; which is all audiences really need emotionally. Westley is noble but cheeky as our leading hero, Princess Buttercup is a strong defiant woman who fights her overpowering oppressors with her stubborn spirit, Inigo is charmingly enthusiastic about his revenge, Fezzik makes up for his lack of smarts with his big heart, while Humperdinck and his partner in crime Count Rugen are so much to loathe.
The ensemble cast is perfectly chosen, maybe one of the best put together in history, as no one seems out of place, every actor seems like they were born to play their character, it’s amazing how well everyone fits their part. If you asked me to recast this film, I’d have so much trouble deciding, it’s just too finely chosen, you can’t alter such perfect casting, and you’d be bonkers if you tried interfering with that kind of magic. Even the damn minor cameos have been picked with the best person in mind haha!
It’s the dry absurdist comedy that also gives the film a silly logic that surprisingly works, the film can get really goofy when it comes to how things tick haha! I never questioned the science behind anything, as I knew that this was set in a world with it’s own old fashioned crackpot ideas of the human body or technology, and it’s actually very funny. The film doesn’t use fairytale logic as a storytelling crutch, but rather satirizes it’s old fashioned quirkiness, it’s completely conscious of it’s nonsense for the sake of humour.
Oh man, the romance in this film, I freaking adore it, never has a film been so spot on about the feeling of being in love, I totally buy that Buttercup and Westley are mad over heels for each other. The two of them are so adorable together, that it helps us to care about them reuniting, but it also makes us hate the villains for breaking them apart, especially Humperdinck. If you hate love stories, then you might not be into the romance, which I understand, but I personally love how this film celebrates true love.
Lastly, let’s address the framing device for the film, a grandfather reading the book to his grandson, a plotline that serves as a host for the fairytale. These scenes are just as charming as the actual story being told, because they reflect a real situation that we can all immediately connect with, a parent or grandparent reading to their kid is something we can all resonate with. The framing device does interrupt the main story, but never inconveniently or pointlessly, because it gives us characters to share the tale’s most dramatic moments with, and there’s an arc of growth for the Grandson’s interest in the book.
To Conclude, I really suggest that you see this movie, it has all the ingredients for a great film, including romance, action, comedy, history, adventure, and fantasy. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like one aspect of the film, there WILL be an element or plotline that’s for you, just be prepared to unlock your inner child in the process. My suggestion? Get together with your family and friends, grab some popcorn, put this film on, and get ready to have the most delightful fun you’ll ever experience.
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