Monday, January 16, 2012

The Princess Bride: The Romantic's Action-Comedy (Or Everything You Want In A Film)

Few films are capable of transcending genre restrictions so flawlessly as The Princess Bride. Originally a novel by S. Morgernstern but translated and abridged by William Goldman and published in 1979, the film version of The Princess Bride would come out a little under ten years later in 1987.
                                                Book Version
Film Version

This movie is, quite frankly, one of my favorite movies of all time. The book is an absolute stellar read and I highly recommend picking it up, but the movie! Just watch this clip of the late great Peter Falk (may he RIP) as the Grandfather talking to his Grandson, (played by Wonder Years star Fred Savage) about, ironically, the magic of books:

This film truly has it all, and yet, I know many of you will say that it is not truly an Action-Comedy. To this I might have to agree as the film takes place in a Renaissance-era setting and therefore lacks the necessary explosions, car chases, and witty one-liners that abound in the Action-Comedy genre. Indeed, The Princess Bride would more appropriately fall under the Adventure-Romance-Comedy kind of flick. However this film is so damn funny and packed full of action. If you don't believe me, watch these two clips. The first is an epic sword duel between the Dread Pirate Roberts, played by Cary Elwes, and the Spaniard Inigo Montoya, played by Mandy Patinkin. And the second is a mash-up of Wallace Shawn as the evil Sicilian genuis, Vizzzini uttering his favorite catchphrase: inconceivable!

The Princess Bride is such a good film because it's both a parody of the classic love-story/fairy-tale, and yet also a simple re-imagining of it. The story, like so many other fairy-tale romances, begins as such: Buttercup is a beautiful girl whose parents own a small farm in the countryside of Florin and Westley is a farm boy who works for them. Buttercup's favorite pastime is ordering Westely around, to which Westley always replies "As you wish.", a sign of his affection, and obliges Buttercup happily. The two eventually fall deeply in love, but in order to get money to be married, Westley goes off to find a job and start a life for them. But then Buttercup hears of Westley's death by pirates and she suddenly finds herself whisked away by Prince Humperdinck, who is resolved to make her his bride. As the nuptials near, Buttercup is kidnapped by three outlaws--Vizzini, Fezzik, and Inigo Montoya who are hired to kill the Princess and start a war with Florin. Buttercup is then saved by the Dread Pirate Roberts who later reveals himself to be Westley who happened to escape death. But Buttercup is taken once again right as she and Wesley are reunited by the ruthless Prince Humperdinck. The Prince then orders torture upon Westley so as to  keep him away from Buttercup, but Westley ends up being saved by Fezzik and Inigo, who in turn risk life and limb to help him save Buttercup.

So how does this movie fare? Let's find out in the breakdown.

The Breakdown
  • Ridiculousness: Now this is one seriously wacky fairy tale. Told with a mostly tongue-in-cheek style of story-telling, The Princess Bride is always pushing towards the more ridiculous as the film progresses. From its humble beginning on Buttercup's family farm, to the grand castle of Prince Humperdinck, to the incredibly twisted Fire Swamp and the self-explanatory Cliffs of Insanity--this flick has ridiculousness all over it like a Holocaust cloak on a giant. And it works. 5/5 Stars
  • Classiness: While ridiculous, The Princess Bride also manages to remain incredibly classy and on point. The dialogue is always sharp and witty. The characters are all so fresh and well-crafted. I mean, hell, even the look and feel of it is just like if you'd been dropped into a fairy-tale yourself. And all of the scenes with Cary Elwes and Robin Wright as Westley and Buttercup respectively are tender and sweet when they very easily could have been cheesy and overdone. Incredibly classy film, indeed. 5/5 Stars
  • Cheesiness: Actually, in my opinion, this film isn't very cheesy. But I could see where people would draw those conclusions. The characters are big, the romance is heightened, and the relationship between the Grandfather and Grandson, (while in my mind appropriate), can get kind of hammy and sappy towards the end. 2.5/5 Stars
  • Hilariousness: The Princess Bride is full of funny moments from beginning to end. It wouldn't be one of my favorite movies of all time if it didn't have as many funny moments as it does. To prove my point here are two more clips of awesome hilarity. 4/5 Stars

    • Awesomeness: a Totally Awesome film. With a rating of 4.125/5 Stars The Princess Bride is a film that's just superb on so many levels. It's damn near perfect. I mean, seriously, what more could a person ask for what with all it gives you: fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles...

      So there you have it ladies and gents. The Princess Bride. The Romantic's Action-Comedy. The Action-Rom-Com. The Comedic-Action-Romance. Yup. It's all of those things, a little bit of magic, and a whole lot of awesome, too.

      - Duke

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