I must admit, what kept me from watching the Princess Bride for so long was my judging a movie by its cover. The devilish combination of the film’s title and its kiss-filled box art gave me the wrong impression of what this thing is actually about. Part of me always imagined the Princess Bride was a Nicholas Sparks story set in the 13th century, not the hilarious swashbuckling adventure story it truly is. Oh, how wrong I was.
The Princess Bride is a classic damsel in distress tale done with modern spin. It chronicles the adventure of Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright), and her love Westley (Carey Elwes). After heading off on his own for a trip, Westley goes missing for five years. Believing him dead, Buttercup becomes engaged against her will to the Prince Humperdink (Chris Sarandon). But ya know, not even death can stop true love and all that noise. It’s got monsters, fencing, evil princes and, yes, Andre the Giant, looking big and whatnot.
The plot isn’t really something unbelievably original. In fact, the whole damsel in distress idea has probably been told for at least the past millennium. Plus, this iteration doesn’t do anything new for the perception of women than the 1000 year old versions. However, that’s not really the point of the Princess Bride (though it would have been nice to see Buttercup effectively defend herself at least once); the film is really about making this old story enjoyable, fun and entertaining, and it certainly achieves this.
Humour is the greatest strength of the Princess Bride. Well-written, hilarious dialogue fills this movie at every turn; from Andre the Giant’s brutish buffoonery, to Inigo’s tendency of being honourable to a fault (“I promise I will not kill you until you reach the top”). The characters are the perfect vehicles for the film’s comedy, all of which are strongly written and designed, with the possible exception of Buttercup (Again, she was both physically and emotionally weak). The diverse and talented cast deliver some of the most memorable quotes in recent memory, many of which I recognized before I had ever watched the film: “Inconceivable!” and “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
The beautiful vistas and sets of The Princess Bride create the film’s fairy tale atmosphere. Rolling hills, treacherous forests and intimidating castles populate this beautiful fantasy environment. While the characters speak of real world places (Australian poisons, for example), the world they inhabit, with its fire swamps and Cliffs of Insanity, is far from anywhere on this planet. This acts to both relate the audience to the world and distance it from us at the same time. As clliche as it sounds, at times, because the world is so flushed out and well created, I forgot I was even watching a film. I just became so involved with the characters and the world they inhabit I didn’t want to bother with my own.
Besides the whole Buttercup-is-submissive-and-lame thing, my complaints about the Princess Bride are minimal. At a few moments, my suspension of disbelief was broken by a few boneheaded moves by the characters (like the heroes hiding from guards on patrol, but when it’s time to leave they just get up and walk off without worrying about the guards anymore). There is also a noticeable reliance on deus ex machina, or random events to help solve the plot, near the end of the film, but I won’t go into it and ruin the movie.
If you’re looking for a magical ride of a film, I couldn’t recommend anything more than the Princess Bride. It evokes everything that made your childhood memorable, yet makes it fresh and funny for our old weathered souls. The comedy will keep you smiling, the sword fighting will keep you on the edge of your seat and the characters will make you fall in love with the world. Just don’t go looking for a feminist film revolution, that would be inconceivable!