Saturday, October 15, 2011

Storybook Love, or Alas, Poor Ratsy, I knew him, Horatio; A rodent of infinite size, of most excellent fancy

Lily is now five, so we’re letting her watch more mature movies. I saw on a blog that the surviving cast of the The Princess Bride got together and that got us talking about the movie and we thought we’d put it in and see if Lily liked it.

I remember the first time I saw The Princess Bride. My grandparents were stealing cable. I was about fifteen or so, and I turned it on maybe about a half hour into it. The Man in Black had just killed Vizzini and he and Buttercup talk about Westley.(Also, I would have sworn that the characters named was spelled “Wesley”, but the imdb has it as “Westley”.) Then he gets distracted by the arrival of the Prince and she pushes him down the ravine, and he says “AS YOU WISHHHH!!” and we realize that he is Westley.

I’m happy that I came in on the movie when I did, because even as a an obtuse fifteen-year old, I was probably savvy enough to figure out that Westley was the Man in Black. But entering In Media Res as I did, I got the scene at the perfect time.  The banter let me know who Westley was, but I didn’t have enough information to figure out that he was the Man in Black.

(And yeah, those are spoilers up there, which I’m usually pretty good about avoiding, but A.) It’s a 25-year old movie and B.) If you’ve never seen The Princess Bride, what are you doing reading my blog when you could be watching it?)

Every now and then you get a movie where everything is done right. I think Scott Pilgrim is one of these.  The Princess Bride is another. I wouldn’t call either film perfect,  but I think the end product is as close to ideal as you can get.  Anything that would improve any one element of the work would take away from somewhere else.I’m not sure if I like the book or the movie more. They’re very different beasts. I will say this, though. The movie is a perfect adaptation of the novel. The changes that were made have produced a movie perfected suited for its medium. The book is a richer work, but a line-by-line adaption would have been the wrong way to go, and the film boils the story down to its essence and presents that.

Even the smallest player gives a memorable performance. Christopher Guest in particular creates a villain for the ages in Count Rugan. Wallace Shawn is one of those rare actors even more awesome offscreen than on, but even if he were not, he could coast for the rest of his life on the goodwill from his role as Vizzini.

Cary Elwes. Huh. Apparently he’s had dozens of roles since Bride. I vaguely remembered Robin Hood, the X-Files and Liar, Liar, but it’s kind of sad that his career peaked as early as it did.

Mandy Patinkin  has said that Inigo Montoya was his favorite role.  He’s certainly my favorite character in the movie, and I suspect that’s true for a lot of people.

When I was younger, I didn't like the framing mechanism of the grandfather telling the story, but it's grown on me, and I really think it serves to ground the movie. By letting the audience know that the absurdity is not to be taken entirely seriously, it allows us to embrace it.

The Princess Bride has to be near the top of anyone's list of quotable movies. "We are men of action, lies do not become us", No more rhymes now, I mean it./"Anybody want a peanut?", "INCONCEIVABLE!", "I'm not left-handed either"," I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me", "-Murdered by pirates is good...", "You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders - The most famous of which is 'never get involved in a land war in Asia' - but only slightly less well-known is this: 'Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!'", "Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something", ." "Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam...", "Humperdinck! Humperdinck! Humperdinck!/"I'm not listening!" "You mocked me once, never do it again! I died that day!"

And of course, "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

If I had to pick all an time best scene, I might go with this. It reminded me of Fantasia, with the score perfectly wedded to the action, with the musical stings accentuating the sword strikes.

But enough of my opinions. What did Lily think of it? She wanted to know when the Prince started acting nice, because princes are the nice guys in her experience. (We ran into this problem when watching Disney's Robin Hood too.) When Wesley kills the ROUS, she said, "Oh, poor Ratsie! I thought they would save him and keep him as a pet!" She liked it. There were parts that went over her head, but she followed the gist very well. More importantly, she liked it, and Buttercup has entered Lily's pantheon of princesses.

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