The Princess Bride

Director: Rob Reiner

1987

“Rob Reiner’s friendly fairy-tale adventure The Princess Bride delicately mines the irony inherent in its make-believe without ever undermining the effectiveness of the fantasy.” (739, Jonathan Rosenbaum, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

The Princess BrideNow The Princess Bride has an enormous cult following but it is one of those films (much like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986, John Hughes) that I ever really understood the appeal of. I have given it a number of tries across the years and it just does not appeal to me. You would think that a fantasy film from the 1980s would be right up my street but this one really isn’t. The humor is reminiscent of the Monty Python films, which as you may know I am equally ambivalent of. It’s not the sort of humor that makes me laugh, I think it is base and juvenile and it just does not seem funny to me in the slightest.

“The colorful characters and adventures are, at their best, like live-action equivalents of Disney animated features, with lots of other fond Hollywood memories thrown in.” (739) The characters may be live-action equivalents of Disney animated features but they do not translate very well. Animation gives the directors and writers the leeway to do things that would appear completely ridiculous in a live-action movie. The Princess Bride attempts to make these larger than live characters fit in the real world but falls short in my opinion. I’m not saying that it cannot be done because it can – but it is nominally done most successfully by Disney (the most recent success that jumps to mind is Enchanted, 2007, Kevin Lima) There has to be a subtlety to the performance that results in a successful film, which seems to be severely lacking in The Princess Bride.

“Not even the crude ethnic humor [-…-] pricks the dream bubble, and the spirited cast has a field day.” (739) They certainly do go for it – overacting seems to be the watch word. While I guess the mood Reiner was going for was very much a tongue-in-cheek one but it just doesn’t wash with me. There isn’t really anything that made any sort of positive impression on me. But please by no means let my opinion colour your perception of the film – watch it for yourself and come to your own conclusion. After all that’s what makes cinema, and the arts in general, so interesting – everybody has their own opinions and one person’s masterpiece can be another person’s disaster.

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Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Director: Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones

1975

“The process of making the movie had aspects as darkly comical as a typical Python sketch. For one thing, the two directors didn’t make a compatible duo; they had different visions of the movie’s style, and Gilliam resented Jones’s tendency to reduce the grandeur of his set designs with cramped camera setups.” (590, David Sterritt, 1001 Movies You Must See Before you Die)

Monty Python's Holy GrailNow while I am British and therefore naturally understand that elusive British humor, one thing I have never really grasped is the humor of Monty Python. They have moments of shining brilliance where they truly are hilarious but for me these moments are rare. For the vast majority of the time I find them absurd and puerile. And this was certainly the case with Holy Grail. The only moment I found funny was their first interaction with the French – the now infamous “I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.”

I can completely see how and why this (and other Python offerings) has achieved cult movie status. It’s got easy costumes to recreate that are instantly recognizable. And lord knows it’s quote-worthy. Add to that the other elements such as the horses being coconuts and you have the recipe for an instant cult movie.

Despite not being a Monty Python fan I do have to give them props. They are a hard-working group with almost every one of the core actors, like John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, taking on at least 2 additional roles.

“Like much of Monty Python’s best work, Holy Grail is a keen-minded parody with a political edge, debunking a foundational myth of Western power while playing Brechtian havoc with traditionalist ideas ranging from benevolent despotism to chivalric masculinity. And oh yes – it’s a laugh riot.” (590)

Holy Grail is a completely bizarre film with a very loose narrative that is actually narrated as well. It’s a mish-mash of techniques with real time action and animation often sharing the same scene. It does look quite dated now but I actually think that adds to the film’s cult status and appeal – if you’re a Monty Python fan that is. A lot of the time I found myself getting frustrated with the film due to its outrageous and ridiculous nature.