They’re threatening to remake The Princess Bride.
Inconceivable! And if your brain didn’t read that with Wallace Shawn’s lisp, you’re not a true fan.
Cary Elwes tweeted in reply, “There’s a shortage of perfect movies in this world. It would be a pity to damage this one.”
His tweet has more than half a million likes, mine included.
I love that movie. As a kid, you couldn’t call a movie your favorite until you had seen it ten times at a minimum. I know every beat of each line, every musical cue for that 80’s guitar. The Princess Bride lives, On Demand, in my memory, I think in the place where state capitals are supposed to go.
But is it perfect?
Eh, probably not.
It’s perfect to me.
What could be gained from a remake? It’s not like the plot has such great bones that an update could be illuminating or enrich the original.
It’s not Hamlet.
It’s more pig-in-a-blanket.
Familiar, crowd-pleasing, pre-frozen. You wouldn’t order it at a restaurant, but you’re undeniably happy to see it on the table.
That’s how I feel whenever I see The Princess Bride on the TV guide, I can’t resist. The recent hubbub inspired me to watch it again, this time with a critical eye.
What in this movie could be improved in a remake?
To the complaints that the story includes dated or sexist tropes, I’d say, it knows. The movie is a satire of fairytale epics as much as a love-letter to them.
Anything where the heroine is named “Buttercup” and the villain, “Prince Humperdink,” is in on the joke.
I’ll admit it strains credulity when Westley can conceal his identity from Buttercup with only that Hamburglar mask.
But then you wouldn’t get to stare at Cary Elwes in his Ken-doll prime.
I suppose the Fire Swamp special effects could be better. But do we want hyperrealism in our Rodents of Unusual Size?
I remembered the ROUS’s as being animatronic, but on second look, I’m pretty sure it’s a guy in a mangy rat suit. Still, it’s very effective; they’re completely revolting. They look like a piece of chewed gum that rolled under the couch.
What’s scarier, a slick CGI mega-rodent, or a maniac dressed as a giant rat? Which would you be more frightened to have on top of you?
And the quicksand gag holds up! Side note, what was it with kids’ movies of that era and quicksand? I was led to believe that quicksand was a major threat I’d have to avoid as an adult.
Turns out, the main way adults sink themselves is by trying to be funny on Twitter.
Which reminds me of the most terrifying quicksand scene of all in The NeverEnding Story. You remember the one, with the horse, and the mud swamp. I can’t even get into it. I was traumatized.
The only special effect that scene needed was calling Mommy to hold me.
The NeverEnding Story is another movie that is magical in my memory but likely looks laughable today.
It’s a rite of passage for every generation to love a movie with primitive special effects and obsolete technology.
If you don’t love me at my 1995 Toy Story computer animation, you don’t deserve me at my Toy Story 4.
Back to The Princess Bride—with the exception of some gorgeous outdoor shots, a lot of the action takes place on what is pretty obviously a soundstage.
But that was all part of its charm! Sets that looked like illustrations, disguises that didn’t really conceal, peril that didn’t look too perilous, and villains that wore a lot more blush than I remembered.
The film didn’t use special effects as much as it used make-believe.
That’s why it meant so much to the kids who grew up with it.
Is my memory of it a little rosy? Sure. But The Princess Bride is designed to be a chicken soup movie.
The movie’s framing device is literally about being bored when you’re home sick, and you just need something comforting and familiar to entertain you.
That the story surprises you with its humor and heart is why we love it.
And why you can’t mess with it.
As anyone who has read a child their favorite bedtime story knows, updates and improvisations are not welcome. “Do it right!” the kid will cry.
The comfort is in the repetition and the anticipation of all your favorite parts.
The last lines in the movie are baby Fred Savage, having started out groaning at his grandfather’s old-fashioned story, saying, “Hey Grandpa, maybe you could come over and read it again to me tomorrow?”
Grant us this wish: no remake.
Copyright Francesca Serritella 2019