Once upon a time, my high school English class watched an old motion picture I never heard of called The Princess Bride. My normal custom during an in-class screening was to draw in my notebook, but the feature’s charm instead naturally grabbed my attention away from the doodles.
Based on my speculation, this thirty-year-old classic’s appeal comes from its realism when depicting what we already know about old legends. When boys hear the phrase “fairy tales,” their thoughts include the romance accompanied by magical creatures. When girls hear the phrase “fairy tales,” their thoughts include the unrealistic scenarios trapped in the past. The Princess Bride updates these elements to fit the real world in a manner any child cannot get enough of. You know those articles written to shock you about the scary truth behind original fairy tales? Well, guess what? The Princess Bride includes all that. While the story does open to a sweet romance any girl would love, all else after spirals into madness with gruesome scenarios any boy would love.
Great timing too, since 1987 saw a real decline in quality entertainment, particularly when aimed toward violence-obsessed children. So appropriate to the theme, a grandfather comes to visit his sick grandson playing an Atari baseball game in bed in order to read him a story different from the typical ghouls and superheroes. It intrigues you to see the boy start off skeptical about a supposedly tedious story, then become hysterical over the classic love story, learning how much more fulfillment a passionate story offers over mindless escapism.
The original book’s author, William Goldman, also wrote the screenplay, so the expert usage of word play translates to the screen in the highest respects to the art. Back in 2006, the Writers Guild of America honored it in the 101 greatest screenplays ever written, and one can easily see why. You will quote Goldman’s contagious phrases for years to come, including various philosophical statements such as, “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
Kudos goes to each actor for making their characters so distinct; under some sharp chemistry, they share a united, witty vision to communicate a worthwhile story. Director Rob Reiner (This is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally) clearly worked great in keeping the mood light throughout the production process, as everyone, even the old woman who shouts “boo!” leaves a bright influence. Yet the perfectly cast Billy Crystal created the most impactful performance of all; he deserved more screen time for his acute comedic timing.
You know what wasn’t so perfect though? The timeless story’s aging process over time in terms of production values. Little creativity in camera direction made its $16,000,000 budget (34.5 million adjusted for inflation) look any more than its real cost. The various effects reminisce the worst of 1980’s dull production values, such as the shrieking eel puppets, the midget-built rodent costumes, the Styrofoam rocks in the mountain, the plastic swords, and Billy Crystal’s plasticy old-man makeup. These low-budget elements fail to capture the intended authenticity.
I’m particularly unsure about the story’s drive for being told. Neither lead seem motivated enough: Buttercup is passive, while Westley is overpowered, which in turn teaches girls to accept their fate, likewise teaching boys to prove their wits with unjustified murder. The ridicule toward the Catholic Church should also concern some parents—it portrays the church as composed only of old buffoons who speak in an indistinguishable lisp. You may agree with that, but when such a depiction beautifies a thief’s actions, it makes you wonder whether the storytelling legacy faced its downfall before it ever started.
Yet the romance still follows the rules while keeping it tense through a scary fire swamp; the action still follows the rules while keeping it motivated against repulsive beasts. It throws in the pretty Europe scenery while the visuals never go overboard. So in a way, the low production values work to its advantage, as it gives a feel of a Shakespearean stage play. Yes, it’s got romance, it’s got action, it’s got tension, it’s got horror, it’s got history, it’s got crime, it’s got drama, it’s got laughs, it’s got a great song in the end, it’s the ultimate genre picture!
As for what the lesson in my history class was about, I have no clue whatsoever. What I learned from the movie itself lasted longer than what modern education can attempt.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
“101 Greatest Screenplays.” Writer’s Guild of America, East. 2006. Web. <https://www.wgaeast.org/news-events-awards/101-greatest-screenplays/>.
Baron, Sharon Aron. “Coral Springs Movie in the Park Presents ‘The Princess Bride’.” Digital image. Coral Springs Talk. Talk Media, 24 Feb 2017. Web. <http://coralspringstalk.com/coral-springs-movie-in-the-park-presents-the-princess-bride-16413>.
“The Princess Bride.” IMDb. Amazon. Web. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093779/?ref_=nv_sr_1>.
“The Princess Bride.” Lightray. Web. <http://princessbrideforever.com/>.
Triska, Zoë. “The REAL Stories Behind These Disney Movies Will Ruin Your Childhood.” Huffington Post. Oath Inc., 12 Nov 2013. Web. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/12/the-real-story-behind-eve_n_4239730.html>.