When re-watching a beloved childhood film as an adult, there is a worry that the film won’t stand up. That characters you loved will actually be grating, a story you thought was deep was paper-thin, dialog you thought was clever was trite. What you saw as a lake turns out with time to have only been a puddle. I will say upfront, before getting into the meat of the review, The Princess Bride does not have this problem.
Probably one of my bigger takeaways as an adult when watching the movie is the elements that I’m picking up about The Princess Bride from years of watching movies that I wasn’t seeing before because I was a kid, but I am seeing now. Stuff like realizing that the scene of The Dread Pirate Roberts climbing the rope after Fessik and company was actually done on location by a stuntman with an incredibly well-concealed harness. Stuff like the set design for the Pit of Despair and the Fire Swamps – which are incredibly detailed in spite of actually not spending that much time there in the overall total of the film (compared to The Grandson’s Bedroom, which is frequently revisited over the course of the framing narrative).
Then, on top of all of that, there are little bits of chemistry that Autistic me missed as a child and teenager with much less life experience – the reprisal of the rhyming with Fezzik and Inigo when they’re reunited. Little visual ticks in Christopher Guest’s performance as Count Rugen when Westley hints that Inigo’s chasing after him, implying Rugen knows who Westley’s talking about. That Westley, with his barbs at Buttercup as Roberts, is feeling her out – not just if she actually loved him, but had she moved on and had she changed. With this is a follow-up implication with the change in Cary Elwes’ performance between early Westley & Roberts, implying how Westley has been changed by his years as Roberts. And how well Chris Sarandon lets the mask of gentility completely fall away when Buttercup sees through his lies about having sent ships to find Westley.
Are there bits that have aged poorly? Yes, sort of. Probably the one bit that didn’t quite land for me is with the score. Not the music itself – Mark Knopfler’s work on the score is great. It’s that the bits that aren’t played on a guitar, and are instead meant to be orchestrated aren’t. Instead, they appear to be played on a MIDI synthesizer with voices set to emulate larger brass and string sections (going from no credited orchestrator on the film, nor is there a performance credit for the performers), or using an individual performer or performers for each and using reverb to make them sound bigger. It doesn’t… quite work. Honestly, it makes for a film that I would really want to see with a live orchestral performance of the score.
In all, it is a joy to find a film that I loved as a child that holds up just as much, or even better when I’m an adult, and this left me deeply, deeply wishing there was a 4K release of this movie so I could buy it again.
The Princess Bride does have a Blu-Ray release from the Criterion Collection that you can pick up from Amazon (buying anything through that link helps to support the site).
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