Making the Grades
Sick at home and amusing himself with video games, a young boy (Fred Savage) is disappointed to be left in the care of his cheek-pinching Grandfather. Worse yet, the elderly man (Peter Falk) has brought with him a book, which he sarcastically explains was his generation's definition of TV. With few other options, the ailing child sinks back on the pillows to listen and soon finds himself engaged in The Princess Bride, a story of action, adventure, dashing heroes and damsels in distress.
Young Buttercup (Robin Wright) should believe all her fairytale dreams have come true when she, a commoner, is chosen by Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) to be his bride. Instead, the despondent girl is still grieving over the loss of her true love Wesley (Cary Elwes). Five years earlier, the poor farm boy headed off to make his fortune with a promise to return and marry her. However, his journey crossed paths with The Dread Pirate Roberts (an infamous scallywag known for not taking prisoners) and the lady-in-waiting received word her heart's desire had perished at sea.
Without much enthusiasm, the future princess prepares for the regal nuptials. Then, shortly before the big day arrives, the beautiful Buttercup is kidnapped by three curious men claiming to be circus performers (Wallace Shawn, Mandy Patinkin, and Andre the Giant), chased by a masked-man dressed in black, dragged through a fire swamp, swallowed in a sand trap and attacked by rodents of unusual size. But all is not as bleak as it sounds because along the way she discovers a possibility of realizing real romance again.
However, her royal fiance is not as pleased as she with her newfound prospects for living happily ever after. Besides, he and his right hand man (Christopher Guest) have their fingers in some dastardly plans of their own, which the merry maiden's flights of fancy threaten to disturb.
Played throughout with a tongue-in-cheek attitude, the movie spoofs fairytales, mimics the swordfights of great swashbucklers, and assembles a collection of memorable character actors (like Billy Crystal as Miracle Max and Peter Cook as a clergyman with a speech impediment). It's a quirky enough combination of melodrama and comedy that it has attracted a faithful following that can quote lines (and even whole scenes) in a fashion similar to the fans of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Taken as lightly as it was intended, The Princess Bride is a silly, clever slice of entertainment. Yet for young viewers, the subtle humor may be missed in some of the violent depictions and vengeance theme, which include elaborate sword fights (some characters and an animal are impaled and blood is shown), hand to hand combat, poisonings, death threats, attacks by viscous animals, mentions of suicide, and torture. The worst of these is the merciless Gestapo-like character that inflicts pain with obvious pleasure. There are also a couple of sexual innuendos, a man portrayed as overcome with drunkenness, a moderate profanity and some terms of deity used as expletives.
Although the movie had only mediocre returns at the box office, it went on to attain cult status once it released to the then, just budding, home video market. Now The Princess Bride enjoys multiple generations of fans, a success so phenomenal it's almost -- inconceivable.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Princess Bride.
Despite some adverse situations, the Dread Pirate Roberts maintains an overly optimist attitude, like when he comments about the beauty of the trees in the fire swamp. How does this outlook help him and others to overcome their challenges? How can optimism help you?
What does the grandson learn as he listens to his grandpa’s story? What sources do you seek for entertainment? (In keeping with his wise lesson, you may want to look for the book version of The Princess Bride at your local library or bookstore.)