Saturday, July 15, 2017

Princess Brooks

The Princess Bride was not a great movie. There, I said it. Fire tomatoes at will.

I'll grant that in its better moments it managed to straddle the line between trite starry-eyed faery-telling and obnoxiously nitpicky deconstructionism, to denote both self-awareness and dedication to its subject matter. Still, on the whole its fan-base seems to spend more time quoting the flick's various catchphrases than watching it, because to actually watch it is to be exposed to the massive amount of filler between those one-liners. It's the sort of movie which can make falling down a mountainside look tedious by dwelling on the stunt doubles' every single tumble. Every monologue is a line too long, every pause a second too pregnant, every line of exposition stretched to two, every establishing shot a few frames over-exposed. This does not negate its many memorable moments, but it does dilute them unnecessarily. Call me a disorderly attention-deficient child of the internet age if you must, but there's simply too little going on in every scene, too little information density to trap my awareness.

I don't know whether Rob Reiner was infected by this directing style via his father's collaboration with Mel Brooks, because the closest analogy I can think of would be Brooks' own films. Yeah, we can rave about all the hilarious one-liners in Spaceballs or History of the World but that's ignoring the miles of dead air between them, cluttered with minor characters making faces at the camera. Once you get the basic joke of sparking a giant doobie, said doobie's on-screen presence itself is just not that impressive. Nor is the bad guys' repetition of "we've got to get them." Too little challenges our expectations, too little detail sparks mental connections.

This does not resolve to a simple generational fad, either, or budget constraints. The Monty Python movies came out a decade prior, with less funding and more lines, jokes and new ideas. And sure, Princess Bride wasn't primarily comedic like Brooks' parodies, but it still seems to follow the same school of thought in constantly condescending to the audience's slow reaction time. It shows a mental separation between performer and audience, the carnie's disdain for the marks.

How well this feature translates into the internet age is anyone's guess. Optimism would dictate that closer dialogue by creators with their audience would eliminate it, yet cynical awareness of one's virtual surroundings begs the question: how many bloggers, vloggers, webcartoonists, pod-casters and youtube personalites wrap their scripts in slow, overwrought redundancy to make sure you rubes get the punchline?

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