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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Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Director: John Hughes

1986

Despite not being around in the 1980s I am well versed in and have an immense love of John Hughes teen movies. Having said that I’m not much of a fan of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I personally think that it is one of the weaker films in his impressive oeuvre. I wonder though if this has anything to do with the fact that I am not a teenage boy and as Joanna Berry says “every male adolescent’s dream – and every parent’s nightmare – comes true on screen in writer-director John Hughes’s teen comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, as the film’s hero (Matthew Broderick) does all the things in just one day that most us don’t have the nerve to do in a lifetime.” (731, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) I just don’t particularly get the film or really connect with any of the characters.

Hughes takes an unusual viewpoint with Ferris spending a large portion of time talking directly to the camera and thus the audience. I find Broderick to be smug and cocky rather than charming as most people do. There’s something about him that puts me on edge. Ferris uses his friends, bending them to his way of thinking through his domineering personality. I don’t find it funny in the slightest and think it’s actually really overblown and fantastical. At least his other film (with the exception of Weird Science, 1985 of course) are more believable.

“Like previous Hughes movies such as The Breakfast Club (1985), Pretty In Pink (1986), and Sixteen Candles (1984), adults here don’t understand the teenagers in their care.” (731) The adults while “[…] just bystanders” (731) are also a great source of mockery. The teachers have supremely monotonous voices; no wonder their classes are sat there in a stupor. The near misses and the vendetta between Ed Rooney (Jeffery Jones) and Ferris do keep the film interesting and moving along. Jennifer Grey is so different as Ferris’ put out sister Jeanie to her role as the nice, eternally optimistic Baby in Dirty Dancing (1987, Emile Ardelino) She’s really quite acerbic and snotty here – the only one completely unaffected by Ferris’ charm.

Pretty much the only thing I like about the film is the extremely sweet ride Cameron’s dad has that is purloined by Ferris for his day of debauchery. I have to give it to him the whole ‘Twist and Shout’ scene is pretty epic but then I love that song! The is an unexpected cameo from Charlie Sheen as a junkie (prophetic much?!) There is a precursor to Broderick’s role as Inspector Gadget (Inspector Gadget, 1999, David Kellog) when Ferris is impersonating Sloane’s dad, with the whole trench coat and fedora. And there is another nod towards Shermer (this time it’s the police department) – the fictional town that appears in every John Hughes movie.