With each passing year, trends in books, film, and television rise and fall with new twists on storytelling alternating with returns to traditional favorites. One of storytelling’s most agelessly appealing genre’s, the fairytale, provides the backdrop for one of modern film’s most timeless comedy classics; The Princess Bride. Based on the novel of the same name by William Goldman, the film takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to classic conventions in a way that still remains as innovative and entertaining now as it was upon its initial release in 1987. This week’s review will focus upon analyzing what it is about this offbeat adventure that continues to make audiences laugh, gasp, and believe in the power of true love.
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1. FUN FOR KIDS FROM EIGHT TO EIGHTY: One of the film’s greatest draws is its ability to entertain children and adults in equal measure. The film begins as a traditional fairy tale about the star-crossed love of haughty Buttercup (Robin Wright) and humble farm-hand Westley (Carey Elwes). Early in the story, the unnamed grandson (Fred Savage) in the opening framing device complains to his grandfather (Peter Falk) that the story better not be a ‘kissing story’. Almost as soon as the complaint is uttered, the tale takes a turn into a completely different direction and morphs into a thrilling adventure populated by swordsmen, giants, miracle makers, and corrupt royals. As the film goes on, the romance and adventure become intertwined in a way that satisfies fans of both genres. The dual tones of the film allow the story to alternate resonating themes such as love, friendship, and redemption with bouts of action and humor that will keep kids interested as well as their parents. The film also combines both dry wit and straight comedy in such a way that children will remain engaged with the obvious gags while their parents enjoy the more mature quips and ironies. As a result, the film is able to maintain a balance between light entertainment and heartfelt drama that is able to entertain audiences without sacrificing any of its wit or substance.
2. FOR EVERY THRILL THERE IS AN EQUAL AND SOMETIMES OPPOSITE LAUGH: While the film expertly maneuvers between romance and adventure it is also equally effective at combining comedy with drama. For instance, when Buttercup is kidnapped as part of an elaborate political conspiracy, the intensity of her plight is offset by the constant bickering amongst her captors. Similarly, Westley and Buttercup’s trek through the fire swamp is a constant juggle between the drama of the dangers that they face and the comedy of the offbeat way in which they cope. Throughout its running time, the script makes a point of acknowledging the histrionics and lack of realism that too often bog down both love stories and fantasy films and uses them to its advantage. By playing up the pitfalls of both genres, the film avoids taking itself too seriously and the risks of seeming cliché or melodramatic that often come with doing so. Through its mixture of comedy and drama, the film manages to recount a compelling quest that also serves as a superb genre spoof.
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3. IT STILL MANAGES TO PULL ON THE HEARTSTRINGS: Perhaps the greatest strength of this consistent crowd pleaser is the way that its emotional pull continues to hold up after numerous viewings. Although the film is best known for its comedy and action, The Princess Bride is at its heart a timeless tale of good versus evil and human bonds triumphing over material gains. It is the love between Westley and Buttercup that propels the story’s action and it is that same bond that provides the film with its emotional core. Behind each laugh and each fight scene there is always the true love that is inspiring the protagonists in their journey. Of course, as in all of the best love stories, the romance between the leading man and lady is one that requires sacrifice, faith, and loyalty. Through the protagonists’ constant ordeals, the story reminds audiences of the trials that all relationships undergo as well as the companionship and understanding that make them worth all the while. The story’s bonds between its male characters are equally crucial as Westley relies upon the help of his enemies turned allies Fezzik (Andre The Giant) and Inigo (Mandy Patinkin) in order to complete his quest. The mismatched Fezzik and Inigo highlight the value of friendship and loyalty as the two manage to play off of each other’s opposing skills and personalities to both reach their individual goals and help each other in the process.
One of the film’s most powerful messages is its interpretation of the classic axiom ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. This notion is most obviously emphasized by the grandson’s initial rejection and eventual enjoyment of the book The Princess Bride but is also utilized throughout the film’s plot. For example, while Inigo and Fezzik initially appear to be bumbling villains they later prove themselves to be worthy allies and heroes in their own right when they join forces with Westley. Similarly, Buttercup trusts the vile Prince Humperdink without realizing his true duplicity, but despises the ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’ before it is revealed that he is actually her beloved Westley in disguise. This recurring theme serves as a reminder to both the characters and audience to value people for who they are rather than what they appear to be. Through its emphasis upon these core concepts, the film adds emotional depth and valuable lessons to its already entertaining narrative. Through its inconceivable combination of laughs, thrills, and timeless life lessons The Princess Bride is a true classic that provides all the family entertainment that you could wish for.
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