Last night Lindsey Graham made a terrible, laboured reference to The Princess Bride during the CNN kid’s debate. I think he meant to come across as cool. But, you see, not unlike Graham’s chances at taking the White House, The Princess Bride is preposterously overrated.
Because people are stupid and have no taste, The Princess Bride has a 97 per cent positive rating on the film review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. Time listed the film was one of the “best of 87.” A favourite with families and lovers alike, it’s regularly listed among the top romances of all time. This is all quite amazing, considering the film is unwatchable trash.
The Princess Bride is about a terrorist who interrupts major government policy so he can pork the leader’s wife, who gives up his nationality and takes a new name, and who returns to his homeland to create a sleeper cell. It’s Homeland with cute hats.
The film opens on the actor from Colombo trying to sell the kid from The Wonder Years on a book as thick as his forearm for bedtime reading while he’s sick. Not even when the child is deathly ill does he get a pass to watch some cartoons. Instead, he’s about to be cross-examined by the world’s most literary family patriarchy about a romance novel from 1973.
The story begins. A princess is kidnapped. Zzzzz. After more backstory, we move on to shrieking eels, foreshadowing the movie’s weird fixation on large, unusual animals as key antagonists. Something tells me the director would be at home in the disturbing furry fandoms of the internet. The princess-kidnappers in question consist of:
The whitest Sicilian ever born. Isn’t it funny that the Italian-Americans so upset with Tony Soprano didn’t give a second thought to this guy? Could it be because the only less threatening males on earth are the Dalai Lama and President Obama?
A Spaniard with a terrible perm. Supposedly the world’s best swordfighter, but he looks like he should be a prep cook in a tapas restaurant
Andre the Giant. Professional wrestler, and devoted anti-enunciation activist. (Princess Bride fans get extra points if they can understand what the hell he’s saying.)
That the princess has managed to be captured by these guys at all doesn’t speak well of her. Then again, neither does the name “Buttercup.” If she weren’t insufferable enough already (spoiler: she is) — she’s also pretty terrible to her supposed romantic interest, Westley.
This isn’t a talks-to-birds and sings-while-she-mops sort of princess. She’s a smug, self-centered blonde, and the closest this movie comes to pitching me a character to whom I can relate. She’s also really into indentured servitude, which I suppose is this movie’s sole nod to historic accuracy.
While keeping a live-in white slave, Westley, in her lavish one-room hut, she spends an exorbitant amount of time shrieking like one of those eels for him to do various mundane chores. Shockingly, he acquiesces. Moreover, her mannish jawline seems to have hypnotised him, because according to the movie, whenever he bowed to her demands with an, “As you wish,” he actually meant that he loved her.
Once Westley manages to get himself “killed” in the vaguest manner imaginable, Buttercup immediately jumps at the chance to marry into money. She has a bad dream about it, but that seems to be the extent of her issue with looking like a gold-digging sociopath.
The movie provides a terrifying glimpse into what women want. A kingdom and a posse to rescue you from… being rich. A boy who spends close to a decade on a pirate ship not getting syphilis from the multiple wenches he, as a pirate king, is entitled to, because he loves you so much. God, I’m glad I’m gay.
But back to the eels. They’re the world’s most ineffective aquatic predators, employing the deadly strategies of being both very slow and very loud. Somehow Buttercup is scooped up in the nick of time, with tension created more by Andre the Giant’s incredible lack of speed than any real danger posed by the soggy muppets behind the princess.
Westley, who magically transforms himself into Dread Pirate Roberts due entirely to the former Dread Pirate’s inability to stick to a decision, pursues Buttercup. Perhaps his utter lack of self-worth has caused him to be the only dashing masked man ever to have trouble finding receptive women. Whatever the reason, he’s chasing the shrill harpy with reckless abandon.
As the dread pirate, Westley goes on a tear of murder, piracy, and utter villainy, but it’s all okay because it’s in the name of his true love for Buttercup. Obviously Westley is the epitome of the lovelorn beta-orbiter trope so common amongst male feminists. I imagine Wil Wheaton grew up with a poster of Westley above his bed.
Any real man knows murder, piracy, and villainy are their own rewards and should not be pursued for something as trivial as gaining access to a particular woman’s treasure chest of booty.
The only interesting part of the entire movie is the inexplicable sexual energy in the ensuing duel between the Spaniard, Inigo Montoya, and Westley. There’s plenty of winking, lingering glances, and talking about favoured hands. Westley, sensing the presence of his soulmate, refuses to kill the Spaniard swordsman. Either that, or the hideous perm softened the blow he struck to the man’s curly head.
Westley’s exploits to rescue his bitchy beloved include riding piggyback on Andre and playing a rigged drinking game with a small, bald accountant. Then he rolls down a hill because Buttercup smacks him, cementing his position as the absolute worst buccaneer in any story, ever. Westley spends the latter portion of the movie almost totally paralysed, and wins the day only because his antagonist, Prince Humperdink, is somehow less competent than the worst pirate of all time.
Moreover, just like Star Wars, Westley & co are terrorist insurgents glorified on screen. They run up to the equivalent of the White House and kidnap the First Lady based on dubious politics that they explain in five minutes. Westley is part of a pirate army that attacks Florin government soldiers, defies their noble Brute Squads and finally breaches the grounds of the leader’s home carrying a miracle of mass destruction, and gullible audiences give him a standing ovation? Just another example of how Hollywood has been pushing out anti-American propaganda for decades, if you ask me.
Nobody even knows why there needs to be a war with Guilder. Maybe they have a dragon of mass destruction? Maybe they have whale oil? Maybe there are just too many radical Guildarians. We never find out. It’s worth noting that after the film, Guilder grew, its poisonous religious ideology left unchecked. Millions died in the Pan-Guilderian wars later on, simply because one entitled white feminist wouldn’t play ball. The Humperdink Doctrine doesn’t sound so bad now, does it, you idiots?
Seriously, the Princess is awful. The apotheosis of all the very worst things about women.
Understandably, Wonder Years Kid gets sick of the story, and fruitlessly attempts to get his sadistic grandfather to skip over some of the racier bits. No such luck! That’s what you get for being sick. Next time, you’ll know to lock your door when your mother announces ol’ grandpa’s arrival. By the end of the story, the kid has resigned himself, and exhibits all the symptoms of Stockholm syndrome. Mission accomplished, gramps.
Speaking for myself, the only way I got through the movie was fantasising about Inigo and Westley finally realizing that Buttercup wasn’t worth the effort, and going off to, err, cross swords again in private.
It’s baffling that anyone over the age of 12 could enjoy this film. It is a lame, meandering pastiche of every boring idea from every romantic swashbuckler and crap fantasy novel mixed together. If it were a new movie, I could only deduce from its dreary lack of quality that it was the work of either the Mizzou Black Lives Matter protestors or E.L. James. Actually, I take that back, because The Princess Bride makes 50 Shades of Gray look like Dostoevsky.
Before people of all types were posting memes over every corner of the internet, from Linda Glocke to Pepe to your own humble correspondent, they were spreading memes the old-fashioned way, by poorly and boringly repeating lines from awful films. It shocks me that a broad spectrum of my fanbase is perfectly content to watch and quote along with the terrible film that their parents or older siblings did as well. Entire generations loving a movie as shoddy as The Princess Bride? You know what I’m going to say… inconceivable.
There are many cult movies that deserve the praise showered on The Princess Bride. For instance, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Short Circuit, Masters of the Universe and Mariah Carey’s 2001 masterpiece Glitter. Each of them is in a different league from this bilge. (The Neverending Story is also garbage.)
I freely admit that the human emotion known as “love” eludes my understanding, but if it’s as trite and meaningless as The Princess Bride makes it appear, I’m missing nothing. The Princess Bride is stupid, nonsensical and annoying and you should feel like an idiot for buying into its inexplicable online mythology. Stop pretending you like it.