Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

To justify its authority, a parody ought to also prove that it can do better.

After all, anybody can make fun of a fairy-tale (just write a story badly), but to produce a good original one is much harder.

1987's The Princess Bride wins on both scores.

The first time I saw this movie last year, it left me fairly non-plussed. It seemed aiming to be some hip piece of clever post-modernism, but lacked the guts to ever get beyond merely wanting to break the mold. For example, as the story was being told within a story, I kept waiting for either of the sugar-coated hero and heroine to suddenly get unexpectedly killed.

This didn't happen, well, not until we'd reached the point in the formula when that normally happens anyway. However although the grandfather and grandson's repeated storybook wraparound scenes set the movie up as a spoof, this is definitely more of an actual fairy-tale.

Still, a while after I had seen it, I became aware that several of my friends were raving about it as a classic. The Reynolds announced on Facebook that they were rewatching it, and suddenly no end of quotations were getting left as comments by all and sundry. So perhaps this throwaway piece of 1980s wryness deserved a second look? After all, cult movies do tend to be the ones that improve with repeated viewings.

So I've just watched it again, and can happily report that I enjoyed it much more the second time. In fact, it's now hard to find anything not to like. The strong cast give their all, the story never drags, and most of it is… well, just so darn nice.

And yes, it is quite quotable, and not just the funny stuff…

Buttercup: "Westley, what about the R.O.U.S.'s?"
Westley: "Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist."
[An R.O.U.S. attacks him]

Banderas: "You are sure nobody's follow' us?"
Vizzini: "As I told you, it would be absolutely, totally, and in all other ways inconceivable. No one in Guilder knows what we've done, and no one in Florin could have gotten here so fast. (BEAT) Out of curiosity, why do you ask?"

Banderas: "I just work for Vizzini to pay the bills. There's not a lot of money in revenge."

Vizzini: "You're trying to kidnap what I've rightfully stolen."

Count Rugen: "You've been chasing me your whole life only to fail now? I think that's about the worst thing I've ever heard."

The Ancient Booer: "Boo! Boo! Boo!"
Buttercup: "Why do you do this?"
The Ancient Booer: "Because you had love in your hands, and you gave it up."

Banderas: "His true love is marrying another tonight, so who else has the cause for ultimate suffering?"

The only criticisms that I can find now really are minor:

1. The absence of forgiveness. Mandy Patinkin as Antonio Banderas really should have let his father's murderer live. Likewise Westley should never have killed the fire-stunned rodent of unusual size. For heroes, such behaviour subtracts from their heroism.

2. Some of the dialogue sounds muddy, which becomes a problem for characters with thick accents, like Fezzik and the aforementioned Banderas.

3. The music. While the great Mark Knopfler as always finds it impossible to pick up a guitar and make anything bad come out of it, expecting a synth to stand-in for real instruments has never worked, and is the only element in the film that feels condescending.

So, overall, more of an actual fairy-tale than a parody.

So what on Earth were Peter Falk and Fred Savage doing there?

(with thanks to flatmate Dave)

(available here)

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