Worth A Look: 7.69%
Pretty Bad: 1.18%
Total Crap: 4.14%
5 reviews, 139 user ratings
|Princess Bride, The
by Scott Weinberg
The Princess Bride is the finest family movie produced since The Wizard of Oz. (OK, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory falls into this very exclusive category also.) Widely adored yet somehow still dismissed as a "cinematic trifle", The Princess Bride is quite simply one of the most entertaining films you're ever likely to see. Nearly every single component of Rob Reiner's movie is a winner, from the picture-perfect casting to the ridiculously beautiful scenery to the sweet-natured and very funny screenplay.As the film opens, we meet a little boy who has taken to bed with the flu. His gregarious grandfather stops by for a visit and brings with him a book entitled The Princess Bride. Despite some initial reservations, the young boy is soon hypnotized by his grandfather's storytelling. (One of the film's most clever conceits is having the grandson interrupt the movie several times, offering the exact same questions and comments that your kids would come up with!)
"If you have something nasty to say about his one, I'm simply not interested"
The fairy tale tells the story of young Buttercup, a beautiful young maiden and her beloved Westley. As Westley is nothing more than a poor farm boy, he quickly decides to hit the road to seek his fortune, at which time he'll return for his beloved Buttercup. Suffice to say that things don't go as planned. (For a movie this special, I won't even offer "spoilers" that happen 20 minutes into the movie. The beauty is in the surprises, and surprises don't always come at the end of the movie.) If you need more of a plot synopsis than that, just trust me that it involves the following:
Screaming Sea Slimies
Vows of Vengeance
and of course
While a relatively bare-bones "mystical adventure quest" plot is the backbone of The Princess Bride, there are more than enough unique and wonderfully original components worth mentioning. Let's start with the cast.
The late Andre the Giant as the massive yet pleasant behemoth known as Fezzik. While it's blatantly obvious that this guy was NOT an actor, he still manages to deliver his (barely understandable) lines in a delightfully sweet style and offers a lovably strange screen presence.
Mandy Patinkin (Alien Nation, Dick Tracy) as a gentlemanly swordsman: "Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!" This cry has become one of the most often-repeated (and best-remembered) movie lines of all time. Good thing they got a performer like Patinkin to deliver it.
Billy Crystal (City Slickers, America's Sweethearts) delivers a gloriously funny cameo as Miracle Max. Dismissed by some as a bit too "borscht belt" or hammy, Crystal pops up for a few scenes near the ending and offers some solid belly laughs. (Carol Kane adds a little spice in a tiny part as his wife Valerie.)
Cary Elwes and Robin Wright as the young lovers. When I say the words "perfectly cast", this is what I'm talking about. Looking like a young Errol Flynn, Elwes brings a handsome bravado, a good-natured swagger and some dead-on comic timing to his portrayal of the courageous hero.
I got to take a brief side-step here just to mention how much I enjoy the work of Cary Elwes, not only in The Princess Bride, but in almost all of his performances to follow as well. Bizarrely (but thankfully) relegated to the role of "character actor" throughout his career, Elwes has delivered fantastic turns in movie ranging from very good to not so good. To see what I mean, check out what he does in movies like Shadow of the Vampire, Glory, Liar Liar, Hot Shots, Dracula, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Kiss the Girls, Twister. His portrayal of John Houseman in The Cradle Will Rock is nothing short of wonderful.
OK, on to the lovely Robin Wright as Buttercup. Yes, she's almost criminally gorgeous, but she's great as the Princess. Robin is another actor I've kept my eye on throughout her career, and I'd venture to say that she's one of America's most underrated actresses. Check out her stuff in Forrest Gump, Moll Flanders or Unbreakable to see what I mean.
The list goes on and on. The brilliant comedian Christopher Guest (Best in Show) gets to play against type as the evil Count Rugen. Chris Sarandon (Dog Day Afternoon, Fright Night) brings a oily nervousness to his despicable Prince Humperdinck and Wallace Shawn as the evil genius Vezzini is the stuff of cinematic ecstasy. (This is an astronomically talented character actor who will ultimately be best remembered for the word "Inconceivable!") In the sweet framing story, Peter Falk (The In-Laws, Made) is warm and enjoyable as the Grandfather while Fred Savage (Vice Versa, Little Monsters) is simply perfect as the sick young boy.
The story is so timelessly entertaining thanks to the witty and light screenplay by William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, adapting his own novel here) and the liberal doses of humor and the breathtaking landscapes are courtesy of director Rob Reiner. This was only Reiner's third film (after This is Spinal Tap and The Sure Thing) and it's impressive that he could deliver an instant classic so soon in his career.
It's tough to praise this movie without sounding like the back of the DVD cover, but everything you've heard about this movie is true. Rarely are movies adored as feverishly as The Princess Bride is. While it wasn't a real big moneymaker in its theatrical release, this movie has earned a "video renaissance period" that very few films ever see.
In trying to mix fairy-tale mythology with a decidedly modern sense of humor, Reiner and company have delivered a movie that simply glows with good times. Very few movies are this much innocent fun, and rare is the movie that both kids and parents will want to watch together. Is The Princess Bride a perfect film? No, I don't think there is such a thing as a "perfect film" (and I've seen a lot of 'em), but here's one that comes damn close.
Last year, MGM went ahead and released a rather sparse (and non-anamorphic!) DVD version. Sparse as in no extra features and the transfer wasn't as perfect as this movie deserves. But guess what? This week they released an all-new Special Edition. (I wisely ignored the earlier DVD, as I knew a movie of this stature would certainly earn a Special Edition somewhere down the road.) All I can say is that if you love The Princess Bride, then go buy this DVD...the new one. If you already own the older version, give it away as a gift. (You'll make lifelong friends by giving away movies this good!)
The coolest features are:
1. The full-length audio commentary by director Rob Reiner. He's as garrulous and effacing as you remember from his "Meathead" days.
2. The full-length audio commentary by author/screenwriter William Goldman. Although Bill doesn't get much into the technical aspects of the film and this track has a few slow spots, it's evident that he truly loves this movie. It's rare to find a screenwriter so thrilled with how his work turns out.
3. The all-new "As You Wish" documentary, which features interviews with Reiner, Goldman, Elwes, Wright and several other actors from the film. While this isn't the most informative discussion possible, it's still quite nice to see the actors looking back on this film so fondly.
Several other Extra Features include a Cary Elwes "video shoot", several TV and theatrical ads, two 1987 production featurettes, production notes, stills galleries AND a groovy little booklet insert! If you need them, subtitles/captions are available in English, Spanish and French. You can even watch the movie in Spanish if you want, and yes this version is delivered in a gorgeous Widescreen Anamorphic presentation.
It's as if I asked MGM for the perfect DVD for The Princess Bride and their response was "...as you wish".
(OK, that last line is as corny as I'll ever get in a review and I apologize. After this and The Goonies, I really gotta go find some superhuman cinematic swill to skewer. Writing these five-star reviews is difficult!)P.S. I realize that writing a review of this movie is a truly pointless act, as basically every human in the world has seen this movie. It's my hope that I've inspired maybe ONE person who hasn't seen it to go get it.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1111&reviewer=128
originally posted: 10/10/01 12:21:18