When a person latches onto a piece of entertainment emotionally, the reasons are usually personal. However, when that particular piece of entertainment is also a high-quality example of its medium, then its appeal has the potential to become universal. Large audiences will enjoy the story over and over again, then pass it on to future generations. Such is the case with The Princess Bride. Though not a hit when released in theaters, this film is now a classic to millions. The world of The Princess Bride is a layered and enticing one, mostly thanks to the incredible words used to craft it.
Based on his own 1973 novel of the same name, William Goldman wrote the script for the 1987 film version of The Princess Bride, which was directed by Rob Reiner and stars Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, and Christopher Guest. It is the tale of the most beautiful girl in the land, Buttercup, her true love, Westley, and the evil Prince who tries to come between them. Also included are everything from giants to pirates to Rodents of Unusual Size.
A significant change from the novel of The Princess Bride to the screen is the different framing device for the central fairytale. In the book, Goldman writes himself (and a rather unpleasant version, too, to be honest) into the narrative as he pretends the story of Buttercup and Westley was an actual book written by a fictional author named S. Morgenstern which he had read to him as a child. In the film, a grandfather is reading the book to his sick grandson. This works much better on screen, particularly because Peter Falk and Fred Savage play those roles. Further, Goldman presents the tale as a “good parts” version, the way he was supposedly read as a kid, without a lot of boring tangents about the history of Florin, etc. This definitely maintains the plot momentum throughout the film.
Another facet of the writing that adds to the film’s longevity is the humor. The dialogue is the source of laughs and the wit does not stop. It keeps coming, from great banter (“No more rhymes now, I mean it!” “Anybody want a peanut?”) to zingers (“Have fun storming the castle!”) to one essential, unforgettable word (“Inconceivable!”). Plenty of physical humor is on offer as well, such as Westly’s body slowly recovering from being “mostly dead.” I have a theory it is impossible not to laugh while watching this film. This stays true to a large degree, no matter how many times you view it.
That’s the appeal of The Princess Bride to me—its world, its words, and its wit. For proof of just how entertaining it is, almost all the living members of the cast got together last year for a live-reading of the script as a fundraiser. It streamed online and was as delightful as ever! (Find the hashtag #ThePrincessBrideReunion on Twitter to see what I mean.) This movie is not just one of my favorites, it’s a favorite of many people. I’m very glad that whole dumb remake idea that was floated around years ago never panned out because, to paraphrase Westley, there is a shortage of perfect films out there. It would be a pity to damage The Princess Bride.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rachel Sexton lives in Ohio with her dog Lily. Her favorite things are movies and books, and her hobby is editing fan videos.