Considered a contemporary classic, The Princess Bride was just a modest success at the box office in 1987. Critics praised it; few seemed to care. The passionate cult following that emerged later was built through countless TV airings and VHS rentals. It’s difficult to understand how such a beloved film could fail to find an audience in theaters initially. Then again, a similar fortune befell Matthew Vaughn’s excellent 2007 fantasy comedy, Stardust. Does romantic fantasy simply play better on the small screen? Is it time to start a Stardust cult?
Like The Princess Bride, Stardust has all the makings of a blockbuster. Both films are based on revered fantasy novels, had up-and-coming directors (Rob Reiner was hot off Stand by Me; Matthew Warchus had just helmed the British thriller Layer Cake), and featured casts of familiar faces (Peter Falk, Mandy Patinkin, Carol Kane in one; Ian McKellen, Rupert Everett, Peter O’Toole in the other). Furthermore Vaugh and his screenwriter Jane Goldman cited Princess Bride as an inspiration. Where were the fans of the first film when the second one hit theaters?
Early footage screened at ComicCon to strong buzz; reviews were positive. There was also the matter of Robert De Niro’s cross-dressing pirate (as memorable as Billy Crystal’s Miracle Max). These factors suggested a strong opening weekend. So what happened? Poor marketing that played up special effects over romance and comedy was likely to blame. Sandwiched between The Bourne Ultimatum and Superbad, Stardust was virtually ignored.Viewed as a double feature with its predecessor, the movie nevertheless makes a convincing argument that they still make movies as good as they used to. For a complete schedule of The Princess Bride on AMC, click here.