Thursday, 18 June 2015

"The Princess Bride," Rob Reiner, Film Review

"The Princess Bride," Rob Reiner, Film Review

A series of film reviews where I give my comments on IMDB Top 250 films as a writer.  The idea is that over time these posts will build into a wide-ranging writing resource.

For more details about the approach I've taken, including some important points about its strengths and weaknesses (I make no claims about my abilities as a film critic or even the accuracy of my comments... but I do stand by the value of a writer's notes on interesting films), see my introductory post here.


The Princess Diaries, directed by Garry Marshall, is a fun teenage princess Disney film, in the Cinderella mould, that doesn't take itself too seriously and has a lot of fun in working through the princess formula, with its storyline of balls, dresses and routes to the throne.  Anne Hathaway is the perfect Disney princess and she even manages to out-princess Elsa and Anna in Frozen.  True, it's a little lightweight for inclusion on the IMDB top 250 list, but there are a number of kids' films on the list and it hardly deserves its place any less than the Peter Jackson, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan films.  In short, I was looking forward to rewatching Diaries as a refreshing breather in my IMDB project.

Imagine my horror, then, when I checked more carefully and discovered that the film on the list was actually The Princess Bride, the dire costumed fantasy film directed by Rob Reiner.

Let's start with the positives.  Parts of Bride reminded me of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, with the idea that two or more people combine their talents to become a kind of composite super-person.  In Kid, Butch is the brains and the Kid is the fast shooter.  When there's thinking to be done, the Kid relaxes and leaves it all to Butch to sort out.  In Bride, we have the swordsman, the body and the brain.  And the similarity is all the greater because, just like in Kid, the composite character is followed relentlessly by an almost supernaturally gifted tracker.

André the Giant looks uncannily like Javier Bardem caught in a huge fleshy frame.

Okay, that's the positives out of the way.

After a watching the film for a while, I found I had an unpleasant ache in my face, a condition I like to call Python-jaw, because I usually experience it while watching Monty Python films.  This ache occurs when I start to smile as I realize I'm in the presence of a joke – something joke-shaped has interrupted the narrative flow – but the joke isn't remotely funny – so I never make it into a real laugh.  Instead my face remains locked in its almost-smile until it starts to ache.  Python-jaw.

I had this unpleasant condition throughout Bride.  And while unfunny jokes are arguably better than no jokes at all – there's nothing I hate more than fantasy films played straight – it still didn't make for a very enjoyable hour and forty minutes.

As well as the Pythonesque (non) jokes, Bride shares other features with Python films such as its conspicuous lack of meaningful female parts.  True, the princess is played by a woman (who does little more than wait for her prince to come for her) but it's as though the director, like the Pythons, is plain scared of women.  At least the Pythonesque old crones who crop up from time to time are played by women here.

There are numerous catchphrases – that I'm told are loved and often repeated by Bride's many fans.  I shudder as I imagine guys (surely only guys) across the world saying 'as you wish' to other guys or to long-suffering Python-jawed girlfriends.

Cary Elwes is the wettest romantic lead I've seen for a long time, utterly unconvincing in all the abrupt character changes he is asked to perform.  His adoption as the replacement brain by Inigo and Fezzik is particularly laughable.

Oh well, I got through it and lived to write the notes.

Personal Score: 3/10

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