The American Film Institute lists The Princess Bride as one of 100 Greatest Film Love Stories. Total Film voted it the 38th greatest comedy of all time. By all accounts, it's an undeniable classic. I saw it in the theater when I was seven and swooned as the lovers kissed and the credits rolled. People from my generation can recite this TBP from start to finish, entirely from memory. The character of Inigo Montoya (and his famous self-introduction) has been forever immortalized through t-shirts, bobble heads, tattoos and internet memes. People have TBP themed weddings. The fact that this quirky fantasy film not just endures but actually gains in popularity 25 years after it’s release is down right inconceivable. But is it really a love story?
NO. HAS ANYONE EVER ACTUALLY PAID ATTENTION TO THIS MOVIE AT ALL?!?
The whole premise of this movie begins with a man who tells a story to his sick grandson in order to cheer him up. Fred Savage is not sick. Just look at that happy, rosy motherfucker playing video games in bed and tell me what he's sick with. Probably social studies. Whatever. We've all faked sick, right? I've coughed, hacked, limped, sniffled and Ferris Bueller'd my way out of school more times than I can recall. Sometimes you just need a break. Other times you have mischief that needs managing. I once faked pneumonia for a week in order to camp outside a movie theater so I could be the first to see Phantom Menace (jesus christ did karma have the last laugh on that one).
Anywho, I'm sure Fred is illin' of something and it's awful nice of his grandpa to stop by with a cure in the form of a book. My mom would have just thrown a jar of vapo-rub at me. This family is more supportive. Dear old Granddad has popped over with some male bonding in mind. He opens up his story book and we cut away to the highly imaginative tale of Buttercup and Westley. Right off the bat I have issues. Where are her parents? Why did they abandon her in this shit-hole? She lives alone, in a hut, with a farm boy. And she has a massive superiority complex. Technically speaking, she's a farm girl just the same (Humperdinck later calls her a commoner) so I don't get her better-than-thou attitude. And yet, she's the heroine here. Moving along...
After a quaint intro, the only thing we know about Buttercup personality-wise is that she's into the dominatrix / submissive scene. As per the film, she has two past times, riding and torturing the boy-slave. Probably at the same time, judging by the way she asks him to "polish her saddle." She probably straps him up and rides around on him after the sun goes down, swatting him with a riding crop until he obeys with "as you wish". Not that I can blame her. If my parents abandoned me in a hut I'd have issues too. Wonder what their safe word was...
Anywho. So now they're in love. Or something. They're teenagers, right? And Westley wants to marry her but doesn't have any money, so he needs to leave and seek his fortune first. Like this matters when they both live in a straw-thatched cottage. Maybe he's just tired of being ordered around by this nagging bitch and wonders if he could do better elsewhere. Either way, he becomes yet another person in a long line of people who abandon Buttercup. She's forced to live alone, in the middle of nowhere, with basically nothing except her pet horse (which she probably had to eat since she doesn't have any employable skills and likely didn't hold down a job).
Enter B-Cup the drama queen. Blah blah blah true love. Hey Buttercup, I had a "true love" too when I was your age. He had long black hair, wore leather pants and had a stud through his tongue which pissed off the school principal. Pretty amazing. We swore we would be together until the end of time because we were in love and it was true love and true love meant never dropping out of school and leaving me to be with a 30-year old opium dealer from Wisconsin. You fucker. Anyways...
Everything feels like true love when you're young and stupid, but it never lasts. And you always feel like you'll never love again after your first heartbreak / pirate murder. But times heals all wounds and you move on to new relationships as a bigger, better and stronger person. You grieve, you eat Ben & Jerry's, you watch The Notebook and shop for new clothes and then one day you wake up and everything is better. You go out and you jump into a new relationship, starting the process all over again.
Except Buttercup doesn't. She does a death spiral into depression after Westley disappears. Probably listens to a renaissance version of the Smiths all day while writing terrible, sad poetry. If I were Prince Humperdinck I'd be secretly plotting to kill her too. She's been perpetually weeping for five years STRAIGHT. The villagers are probably fed-up of her Sylvia Plathing about the neighborhood. Maybe they filed a complaint at the castle and Humps was like, "Ugh. Enough of this shit."
So, now there's an arranged marriage between B-Cup and Hump, which sucks, but at least it gets her out of the straw hut (look at the bright side honey). But oh no, she’s still SO suicidal and the only cure is to... MOPE? Not run away. Not fling ourselves off a cliff crying out "Westley forever!" Not slip a bit of arsenic into the fiance's mead. Oh no. We go horseback riding. Maybe that's the 16th century equivalent of dancing it out at the club. Whatever.
Thankfully, her shit's about to get all fucked up (in a good way). Enter Vizzinni, Inigo and Fezzik, three freelance henchmen who are in the market for one slightly depressed princess. BOOM. Buttercups daily ritual of aimlessly wandering/frowning has now been derailed by a kidnapping. One minute Buttercup was totally hating all that is life with Humperdinck, yet the second she’s captured by a band of rogues she pulls a COMPLETE 180. She's all like, "My prince will save me!" Oh he's your prince now, is he? If I were Buttercup, I'd be all "OH AWESOME, LET THE KIDNAPPING BEGIN. BEATS THE SHIT OUT OF DOING FUCKALL ROUND THE CASTLE." But as we know, B-Cup is all about riding the drama llama. So she decides to jump overboard the S.S. Abduction and swim to...
I have no idea. Aren't they in an ocean of sorts? Or at least a large sea? What exactly was the plan here? Stupid stupid stupid. Sidenote: 'And the eel started to charge her" is such an under-appreciated line because charging eels is funny shit.
So after realizing death-by-eels does not sound good, she’s back in the boat pining for Prince Humperdinck who’s now looking better by the minute. All of a sudden mysterious Man in Black arrives on the scene (no, not Johnny Cash although that would have made for a sweet soundtrack) and the rogues take flight. Vizzini (who the fuck put him in charge?) orders Inigo to kill the mystery man. Inigo agrees and says "I'm going to do him left-handed. It is the only way I can be satisfied. If I use my right, it'll be over too quickly." INSERT TWELVE YEAR OLD BOY SNICKER. Oh, he meant swords. Riiiight. So Inigo pulls the masked man up over the Cliffs of Insanity (awesome metal band name, btw) annnnnnd helloooooo nurse! The Man in Black is hot as fuck. End of discussion. Zorro ain't got shit on this dude. But I digress...
Inigo faces his mysterious new opponent and we see the fabulously choreographed fencing duel between him and The Man in Black. MIB bests the Spainard, but refuses to take his life. A 16th century version of the pistol whip knocks Inigo out cold until the second half of the film. We, the audience, view this as an act of honor, supposedly proving that MIB is NOT a cold-bloodied killer (despite taking a page out of the BAMF handbook).
Our Man in Black next battles Fezzik the Giant and just as before, avoids outright killing him. Both fights were duels to the death and yet he stayed his hand. Twice. We're supposed to believe at this point that MIB has a heart of gold. That he's a solid good guy fighting for love and truth and justice in lieu of murder. But all of that goes straight out of the window when he meets the third rogue, Vizzini.
Let's pause and examine this. Inigo was a highly skilled swordsman and fought MIB using lethal techniques. Fezzik was giant of massive strength and also attempted to kill MIB (albeit in a sportsman-like way). Vizzini, however makes NO MOVE to harm the Man in Black. Vizzini doesn't harm ANYONE in the entire film. In fact, when they do finally meet, Vizzini is having a fucking PICNIC. Sure, he waves a dagger at Buttercup, but really he doesn't do shit. If we skip ahead and look at the other bad guys MIB encounters (Humperdinck, the Albino, Count Rugen and Yellin, the Chief Guard) he leaves ALL of them alive too. Westley (aka the Man in Black) only kills ONE PERSON in the entire film and it's a man having a picnic. So much for the "heart of gold" theory.
Sidenote: Everyone quotes this movie to death, which is fine because it's a fun movie. If I had a nickel for every time I heard "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." I'd be swimming in a money pit like Scrooge McDuck. But the sad fact is that there are so many OTHER great lines that are overlooked. One fave of mine is Westley's departing words to Fezzik after he defeats him: "I do not envy you the headache you will have when you awake. But, in the meantime, rest well and dream of large women."
So after defeating / murdering the three rogues, the Man in Black un-binds and un-blindfolds Buttercup, hinting yet again that there is some sort of underlying S&M theme running here. At this point we (the audience) know that the Man in Black is obviously Westley (with a perv ‘stache) but Buttercup does not, so we prepare for a rousing game of "what the fuck happened over the last five years?”
From Buttercup’s point of view, she's being kidnapped a second time (third if you count Humperdinck’s forced engagement) and life is getting shittier by the minute. She's all, "Take me back to my prince so I can continue being completely fucking miserable, you scoundrel!" And we all silently wonder why Westley doesn't drop her ass back off at the castle and settle for a life filled with treasure-plundering, rum and busty, low-maintenance tavern wenches. The truth is he's obsessively hung up on this chick and blind to her emotional abuse. The tension builds...
From here he could have EASILY diffused the situation with "Hey, babe. It's me, Westley! I was kidnapped by pirates and have fought my way back to you. You probably thought I was dead so I understand that you moved on after five years of absolutely no contact. But since I'm back and alive, how about ditching the prince and shacking up with me? (Also I'm super rich now and will build you a bigger straw hut, maybe with indoor plumbing and a sex swing). Savvy?"
But noooooo. He doesn't explain. He has to go and play head games with her emotionally wrecked heart. He instead tells her he's the Dread Pirate Roberts (aka, the man who killed her boyfriend). Upon hearing this B-Cup goes into hulk rage mode and shoves his ass down a mountain.
This is the one time in ENTIRE the movie where Buttercup grows a pair of balls. It is awesome, except they shrink back into her uterus a second later as “Roberts” falls down the mountain and yells out "AS. YOU. WISH." (the exact opposite of what most of us would say mid-fall down a mountain, which is FFFFFFUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCKKKKKKKK!!!!!!). Buttercup's all "ZOMG! WESTLEY! I'm totes sorry bout that!" and launches herself headfirst down the mountain. Because it looked like fun. Or maybe it was the quickest way down. Or maybe dislocating a shoulder would dull the pain of guilt. LOOK I DON'T GET IT EITHER PEOPLE.
Once they've magically recovered without ANY WOUNDS at the bottom of the gorge, Westley says, "Why didn't you wait for me?" Buttercup replies with a totally legit answer, "Well, you were dead." So why is Westley so pissed at her? Five years passed and he was reported dead. Maybe if he had written her a letter that said,"Fortune seeking has proven difficult what with being shanghai'd by pirates and all. But things are looking up with this new apprenticeship, so hang tight. XOXO, Westley." But he DIDN'T write, so she thought he was dead and therefore his argument is invalid. Ridiculous. But he does a bit of back-peddling and snaps at her with, "Death cannot stop true love." This is where B-Cup should have said, "Like how? You mean zombies? Wait, do zombies have sex? If so, I guess that's ok. Sorry. I'll never doubt again."
And so with thoughts of zombie sex on the brain (ba-dump-tish) the reunited lovers enter the Fire Swamp and everyone in the audience wonders why the R.O.U.S.'s never got their own spin-off prequel (amiright?).
They make it through and on the other side is Humperdinck waiting to arrest DPR (DPR is Westley's gangsta pirate name) for kidnapping. In a move of SHEER LUNACY, Buttercup just tosses true love right out the goddamned window and goes running back to Sir Humpsalot. In her mind, she and Westley will just part ways because it's easier (?) and everyone can recommence living in abject misery (fun!). Never mind that your boyfriend is a killer BAMF pirate ninja who's damn handy with a sword. Never mind that Humperdinck's men are total pussies. Never mind that you could totally make a run for it back to the swamp and likely find a different route to freedom. All of that would be exhausting and Buttercup is just plain fucking lazy.
Now comes the part where if I were Westley, I would have cut my losses, cut those henchmen down and sailed my ship right out of there. Your woman clearly doesn't love you as much as you thought and has been pretty laissez faire about the whole situation from the start. Not to mention she's just delivered you on a silver platter into the hands of men who will torture you to death. This is not a girl worth fighting for. But Westley disagrees with me (and rational thought altogether) because he sticks it out through some bizarre form of torture in The Pit of Despair. The Albino henchman thinks it's because he's "brave", but we all know he's probably getting off on being strapped to a rack owning to his previous S&M stint with Buttercup back in the country love shack (Sidenote: Buttercup would be the best dominatrix name ever).
Back at Hump Castle (that's the name, right?) B-cup is being plagued with regret, especially after Humperdinck (who might be the only sane person in the film) points out that it was her, after all, that did the dumping. She moans and groans and whines about true love, a concept she clearly doesn't grasp and probably only read about on Wikipedia. All this drama makes Hump super annoyed, so he goes down and cranks the torture machine to kill Westley.
Inigo and Fezzik plot a rescue mission for Westley. They do not do this for Westley and Buttercup and the noble cause of true love. They do this so Inigo can USE Westley and Fezzik to help break into the castle and murder the six-fingered Count. If we recall, Inigo is only alive at this point because Westley spared his life and so now Inigo decides the best form of repayment is to abuse this trust by being a total prick. Awesome.
Through some dowsing and a really lucky hunch, Inigo locates Westley and drags his limp body to Miracle Max where the best scene in the ENTIRE FILM plays out. If Billy Crystal ever hosts the Oscars again he should do it as Miracle Max along with Carol Kane. I'm getting sidetracked... So Inigo explains to Max how he needs the body reanimated so he can avenge his father's death. He massages Max with a line about true love and then uses Max's hate of the Prince to coerce him into participating in necromancy. Ingio THEN forces Fezzik to cough up his OWN $65 for a chocolate-flavored ecstasy pill and the three head out to storm the castle. Inigo once again being a total douche canoe.
Outside, Westley wakes up (after taking the pill) and immediately accepts the two rogues he dispatched earlier in the film as his new allies. Seems logical. Inigo straight out explains he only revived him for the sole self-serving purpose of murdering the Count. Westley shrugs this off as unimportant. Who knows, maybe he’s just happy to be alive.
Inside, Buttercup ONCE AGAIN gives up on Westley (despite his insistence that she never give up on him and this generally being the theme of the film) and heads to the altar to marry Humperdinck. If you're not slamming your face into a brick wall by this point you might be able to relish the terribly funny performance of Peter Cook as The Impressive Clergyman.
After their drive-thru wedding, we finally see Humperdinck's parents and wonder where the fuck they were all this time. The King is clearly out to lunch, as they say, but the Queen is in possession of her wits and so you have to ponder what role she played in all of this. She had to have noticed that her home was under siege during a royal wedding, right? And since she doesn't react to the news that her new daughter-in-law is off to commit suicide in the honeymoon suite, I think it's safe assume the Queen is in on Humperdinck's murder plot. Like most mother-in-laws, pure evil. But it doesn't really matter since we don't ever see her again.
To conclude this tale of woe, Westley fights back the bad guys and arrives on the scene to save his beloved just in the nick of time. The audience is so swept up at this point ("Drop your sword"), most fail to see the reality of this toxic relationship. Instead of calling B-Cup out on her total and complete lack of faith, Westley simply forgives her. Again. Let's take count, shall we? Buttercup gave up on him after he left to seek his fortune, she threw him down a mountain when he finally returned for her, dumped him for Humperdinck after he saved her from certain death and married the Prince despite pledging NOT to roughly a thousand times. The verdict: She's a faithless twat with loads of baggage and he's a spineless dick who keeps coming back for more punishment.
But this is a fairy tale, so we have to show Master and Slave running off deliriously happy into the sunset (probably to register for china, linens and a PVC gimp suit). It probably won't last long because Prince Humperdinck took 50 years off Westley’s life with the torture machine. He has maybe a few years before he drops dead for realsies. Buttercup will be back to melancholy and the infinite sadness in no time.
Inigo Montoya, being the utter dick that he is, inherits the title of Dread Pirate Roberts from Westley. He gets this job after explaining how he’s been revenge-hungry so long that he’s basically only fit for a life of non-stop murder. He’s learned nothing in his time and redemption is CLEARLY not on the menu, so he scampers off singing “Yo ho ho, it’s a bloodthirsty pirate’s life for me!” Lovely.
Fezzik the Giant is left out in the cold at the end of the film, with only the glint of hope in his eye of one day becoming a fashionable icon of future street graffiti artists long after his death. As for the Prince, he's left (supposedly) disfigured beyond repair. This will likely result in him being totally unshaggable (i.e., dying without an heir) in which case the throne will lay in jeopardy and the country of Florin will inevitably dissolve into chaos and war. THE PERFECT ENDING TO ONE OF THE GREATEST LOVE STORIES OF OUR TIME.
Although I'm sure it all flew over the head of a not-quite-sick-yet--oh-so-lazy eleven year old who had nothing better to do than play video games and jerk off under the covers all day. I'm sure he thought it was a light-hearted, fun adventure filled with pirates and eels and giants. But maybe just maybe little Fred will grow up one day and read between the lines of The Princess Bride. Maybe he'll recognize the signs of tragedy within the story and take away a bigger lesson. A lesson he'll carry on to his own son when he's playing hooky from school. And the lesson is this: trust no one, steer clear of pirates and stay the hell away from crazy ass bitches with parental abandonment issues and sado-masochistic tendencies.