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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The One Romantic Movie Guys Don't Hate

When men are forced to watch kissy-face love stories, they barf in their souls a little.

I don’t know a guy who can’t quote The Princess Bride, the 1987 romantic-comedy about pirates, monster rats, and true love.

The Princess Bride is the perfect romantic movie for men because it celebrates virtues that are important to the muddier sex, as well as the fairer. The Princess Bride features one of the greatest sword duels of all time, fought by a hero too cool to say “I love you.” There’s a feisty princess who is a jerk at first, then is just so over it all. Let’s not forget the movie also features the single greatest performance by a professional wrestler in cinematic history.

But the reason The Princess Bride is the one romantic movie guys don’t hate is because it’s a movie about loyalty. It’s about the love between men and women, best friends, and family. This movie isn’t an insipid fantasy where the girl gets the guy just because she’s pretty and put upon. In The Princess Bride love is a contact sport defined by giving, rather than receiving.

Loyalty is one human virtue that men happily celebrate. Underneath the carnage, war movies are usually about the bonds of brotherhood. Sports movies are all about devotion to the team. Even the second greatest romantic movie for men is about a lone cop fighting a gang of thieves in a skyscraper so he can rescue the estranged wife he hopes to win back. In fairy tales, princesses are always waiting for their princes to come, which holds some entertainment value for women. Personally, it’s lame to be told that sitting still and pouting is anyway to become happy. But to trigger the heart tripwires of a man, a movie has to focus on him staying true to his word, whether it’s a promise made to a lover, a comrade-in-arms, or a sick grandson.

Men understand that dating is a negotiation, which is why we sit through movies like Beaches, a movie that could have done with less cancer and more sharks. I was just being nice when I told my girlfriend that I liked The Notebook. While she was dabbing her cheeks while watching this tale of timeless love, I couldn’t help thinking “When is Grandma going to die?” It’s not that I’m dead inside, or harbor a deep hatred toward little old ladies. I was just bored by the inevitability of it all – the star-crossed lovers, the kissing in the rain, the emotional mugging at the end. These movies are all so corny. They stimulate the heart in the way pornography exclusively stimulates sexual excitement. I know I’m not the only guy who was rooting for the Titanic to sink faster.

Now, it should be noted that there’s a difference between a romantic movie and what is popularly referred to as a “chick flick.” Chick flicks are romantic movies without a conscience. They should be renamed “chicksploitation” flicks, as they prey on female insecurities until the final reel, where the frog suddenly becomes a prince with a taste for flies. Asking your man to watch a chick flick is like asking Frankenstein’s monster to watch Frankenstein. The whole time, the monster is thinking “Wait a second, I’m not that bad! I didn’t ask to be stitched together and lit up like a Vegas casino”

It’s odd, but a tongue-in-cheek fairy tale like The Princess Bride offers up a healthy romantic moral: loving someone is about wanting to grant them their hearts wish. Love is life in a foxhole, where one person has the other’s back, especially when the bullets are flying.

For those who have never seen The Princess Bride, seriously what is your problem? Was your mother an evil carny who raised you in a wicker birdcage under the streets of Paris? The Princess Bride starts off as a story a grandfather reads to his sick grandson. The story is about the love between a princess and a farm boy, how these two are torn asunder, and then reunited. The little boy asks a question about the story that most guys secretly want to ask when forced to endure any Jennifer Aniston movie: “Is there a lot of kissing in it?” Of course, there is kissing. But there are also screaming eels, a pit of despair, and an evil genius played memorably by Wallace Shawn. The droll lead, Cary Elwes, has a posse of best friends who kick butt. They’re all in it together. The Princess Bride is sarcastic, instead of sentimental. The flick is about the responsibility that men have to rescue those that mean something to them. That includes a daring rescue from a boring sick day.

Check out The Princess Bride on Blu-ray


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