I saw The Princess Bride when it first came out in 1987. I liked it. I think I saw it twice in theaters, and maybe once or twice on TV after that, but not for years and years.
My wife and I ran across it on TV last weekend and started watching. It actually felt quite familiar after all these years, and still fresh and funny. I smiled at all of the classic lines and enjoyed the pitch-perfect tongue-in-cheek performances. But we had somewhere to be, so we turned it off about halfway through, immediately after the Vizzini poison scene, and DVR’d the rest for later.
Then I got to thinking, what happened after that? Hmmm. I racked my brain and realized I had virtually no memory of the film after Wallace Shawn’s exit. I knew Billy Crystal showed up briefly toward the end, but that was about it. Well, I figured, watching the rest of it will probably jog my memory.
It didn’t. We finished watching a couple nights later, and I realized that the second half of the movie just isn’t that great. All of the classic scenes, all of the quotable lines, everything that people still talk about 27 years later, happened in the first half, and then everything kind of peters out after that. The pit of despair? Meh. The wedding scene? Who cares? The Inigo/Tyrone duel? Not nearly as climactic as it should have been.
I’m going to have to disagree as well. While certainly my favorite moment in the film, and in fact one of my favorite scenes in any movie, is the wine scene with Vizzini, I think there’s a lot of great lines and humor in the second half. I think part of the reason that it didn’t seem to work as well was precisely because you didn’t see the second half immediately following the first half. I think, perhaps, that watching it a few days later, without being familiar with it, you lost some of the setup that made it work well.
For instance, I think a big part of what makes Humperdinck’s character work in the second half is seeing how strong and heroic he seems in the first half, but without that, it doesn’t make his sniveling cowardice as amusing in the second. If his character doesn’t work out, a whole lot of what’s going on kind of falls flat. I would say, give it another shot before you judge the second half as inferior, just make sure you watch the whole film in one sitting.
Starting at the Fire Swamp (and the Dread Pirate Roberts exposition, which is the most boring and woodenly-delivered scene in the whole movie), the pace of the movie starts to crawl. There are great scenes and lines that come after that, but they are fewer and farther between.
One of my favorite movies (and one of my favorite books as well), but Act II is pretty plodding, IMHO.
This is an excellent and probably valid point. I submit, though, that it could work in reverse as well: Perhaps you can better forgive the drop in the second half immediately after being utterly charmed by the first.
Anyway, I’m not saying that the second half is awful. Christopher Guest is great, as he always is. The Miracle Max scene is pretty funny. But everything that cemented the film as the classic it deservedly is had happened long before then. Plus, far too much of Robin Wright pouting that Westley is about to come rescue her and that she’ll kill herself if he doesn’t. Nice strong female lead there.
I think there are some plodding bits, especially in the middle of the movie–say, from the capture of Roberts to “Have Fun Storming the Castle!” But once the mawwiage and castle-storming begin, the pace picks right back up. Montoya’s fight with the Man in Black might not have quite as much swordplay flair, but the dialogue is better (and the repetition of a single line works beautifully here). The “To the pain” speech is crackerjack. And a few other bits really shine.
If the second half of the movie is good when the movie is seen all at once, but bad when it’s seen piecemeal, then I’d say that means that the second half of the movie is good. Movies are meant to be seen as a whole, after all.
I honestly think you’re objectively wrong, here. The parts you liked might have all been in the first half, but if you’re talking about why the film is considered a “classic” - that is, why the film remains popular with a significant segment of the population, there does not appear to be any particular favoritism for the first half over the second. People quoting favorite lines or scenes tend to pull equally from the entire film, not just the first forty five minutes, and people who have criticisms of the film do not tend to dwell more on the last forty five minutes.