Monday Millennial Movie Review: The Princess Bride
Though it was a bit before my time, culturally, I was always aware that the enduring love for the 1987 fantasy film The Princess Bride might only be paralleled by Star Wars (another classic film that I’ve never seen — and please don’t make me). Often quoted and used as Halloween costume attire, teens and young adults of the 1980s really love this movie.
Now, 36 years after its release, the film itself is a millennial. How does it hold up?
The costumes are pretty impressive, as is the cinematography. It’s also a lighthearted, family-friendly film parents can watch with their kids. But what keeps it from disappearing into 1980s obscurity is really its memorable dialogue. Before today, all I really knew about this film was the oft-quoted line “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” But there are actually a lot of good lines in here. “There’s not a lot of money in revenge.” “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” “Get used to disappointment.”
This is not an original thought by any means, but Robin Wright is perfect as the Princess Bride. Also, once I got past the fact that this was the same Mandy Patinkin from Homeland, which took half the movie at least, I could also see why he was perfect for the role of revenge-craving Inigo Montoya as well. His sword fight and banter with Westley was probably my favorite part of the film, and I like that they respect each other’s skills so much they end up becoming allies.
Finally, the framing of the film, which includes a young Fred Savage as a “sick” boy (seems like he is bluffing to me) and Peter Falk as his grandfather who comes over to read him this story, indicates the main idea of the film — and perhaps the book by William Goldman that it’s based on as well — is that stories are powerful and necessary, and can connect generations.
Like every 1980s movie I’ve watched recently, it’s a little too long, but again, this is largely due to the attention spans of the modern age having shortened dramatically. It’s also predictable, but that is likely on purpose.
Being that I am almost the same age as the film, it’s not quite as impressive to me as it likely was to filmgoers of the time, especially since it seems made for younger audiences. However, I can see why it has outlived so many other ’80s movies that you don’t hear about much anymore, such as, I don’t know, Time Bandits or Conan the Barbarian. Also, it’s a comedy? Who knew! (Probably everyone, but I didn’t.)
Why It Is Still Relevant
The film is clearly a parody, poking fun of the many historical romance and action films that populate Hollywood’s history, as well as stories in general. Buttercup’s insistence on killing herself if she has to marry the prince is likely a nod to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and a reminder to all that teenagers are very, very overdramatic (and that movies can be too). Because it’s a parody, all the characters are likely meant to be caricatures, which explains the name Buttercup and Prince Humperdink and also much of the plot. Additionally, because its ridiculousness is intentional, it ages well.
Why did Westley leave in the first place? Buttercup was already in love with him and didn’t want the rich prince, so he could have just stuck around and saved everyone a lot of trouble if he truly left to get money for her. But maybe he was just bored being a simple farm boy. His pirate years made him very smart and feisty, to say the least.
Also, Westley is still very recognizable when he is disguised as a pirate. How does Buttercup not recognize his voice, if she was so in love with this guy? And was she really in love with him, or was this all just a case of blind teenage lust? Is the point that anyone can fall in love with anyone? Sure seemed that way to me. It was also kind of inevitable since she is female, and he is male, and they seemed to only interact with each other for much of their lives.
All in all, though, it’s a fun movie worth watching with your kids or teens.