By: Kyle Grubb
Since the invention of the fairy tale, there have been five fairy tale movies that have been rated the most adventurous, the most fantastical. This one left them all behind.
With my first movie to review for the site, I actually immediately knew what to review. There was really only one choice, in my opinion. That’s not to say that The Princess Bride is a perfect movie, but in my opinion it’s pretty damn close in being perfect at the most impossible of tasks: being universally enjoyable. It’s an overused line, but I honestly do find that there are only two kinds of people in the world: people who love The Princess Bride, and people who haven’t seen it. There’s not a lot to dislike, for men and women alike, for children and adults. It’s just an enjoyable movie from start to finish full of lovable characters and endless quotes. So many damn quotes. If you somehow haven’t seen this movie, I’m sure you still have heard half of it. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Full disclosure: I’ve probably seen this movie well over thirty times. I’m pretty sure that isn’t an exaggeration. Probably the only movie I’ve seen, front front to back, more times than The Princess Bride is Monty Python and the Holy Grail (which will definitely be getting its own review at some point). I watched this movie all the time when I was a kid. I loved Westley and Buttercup and Inigo and Fezzik, as is so easy to do, and their journey was one I was determined to become part of.
Apparently it took my mother quite some time to convince me to watch the movie the first time, because I heard the title and thought it was a girly movie. I was such a little scamp. Needless to say, this misconception was completely false.
Recently, whenever I find somebody who I know that hasn’t seen the movie, I make it my mission to remedy the deficiency. I feel like I’m on a personal quest to make sure everybody in the world has seen it. That isn’t to say that The Princess Bride is my favorite movie of all time. It isn’t. What it is, though, is the kind of movie that I think everybody should see. I love this movie with all of my heart, have such a fondness for every individual part of it, that I want everybody else to experience it too.
Based on William Goldman’s 1973 novel, The Princess Bride is a fantasy comedy adventure film directed by Rob Reiner. Its fantastic cast includes Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Andre the Giant, Chris Sarandon, Wallace Shaw, Peter Falk, Fred Savage, and countless others. A sick boy (Savage) is visited by his kind grandfather (Falk) who brings with him a wonderful story to pass the time. The book tells the story of Westley (Elwes) and Buttercup (Wright), two poor young peasants brought together by the power of True Love. Sadly, 5 years after Westley is killed in his travels by the mythical Dread Pirate Roberts, Buttercup is engaged, lovelessly, to Prince Humperdinck (Sarandon) of Florin. Before the marriage, though, Buttercup is kidnapped by a trio of miscreants: the Sicilian Vizzini (Shaw), the Giant Fezzik (Andre) and the Spaniard Inigo (Patinkin). When a man in black follows after them with unknown intentions, these characters will travel down an epic journey including masterful sword-fights, a battle of wits, a fiery swamp, a machine of death, miracles, revenge, and, of course, true love.
This cast and these characters are, truly, much of the beginning and ending of this film’s lasting success. Every actor in the movie plays their part with such gusto and takes all of the ridiculous events with such a degree of seriousness that you can’t help but believing in the insane events around them. Elwes’s Westley is such a quintessential heroic figure, and the humor of his character draws from his entirely serious approach to all the obstacles in his way. Andre the Giant is fantastic as Fezzik, the lovable one-man brute squad with a serious love of rhyme and the strength of twenty men. The standout, though, is most definitely Mandy Patinkin as the driven Inigo Montoya. His relentless quest for revenge against his father’s killer provides far and away the most quotable line in the movie. Seriously, you’ve heard it before even if you’ve never seen this flick.
I spoke earlier about the approachablility of this film for, essentially, all demographics. The reason it is able to do this is the fact that The Princess Bride is, essentially, two different movies. As a child, you see it as the fairy tale it claims to be, the epic adventure full of cool swordfights and interesting plot developments. Sure, you’ll laugh every once in a while, but you see it as fantasy. For adults, though, this movie is all comedy. The Princess Bride is, at its heart, a farce. It plays with all of the fairy tale tropes that adults have long since grown used to and twists them in humorous and knowledgeable ways. Director Rob Reiner managed to make a fantastical heroic adventure both completely involving and completely in jest. And it works.
Further winks at the audience are provided by the constant asides by the young boy and his grandfather. Both Falk and Savage are great in these parts, poking fun at the story conventions or helping frame many of the events. As a young viewer, it’s easy to relate the boy, but older viewers can’t help but relate to the grandfather’s knowing looks over his glasses. Particularly when it comes to the kissing scenes.
The score by Mark Knopfler is equal parts perfect and forgettable. The same can be said about Adrian Biddle’s cinematography. Both came in do do a job, to emulate many of the other fantasy movies of the time in look and sound, and both achieve these goals with gusto. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that a single shot or song will stick with you after the credits begin to roll.
I love this movie. Most people love this movie. You’d be hard pressed, in my experience, to find someone who doesn’t like this movie. You also probably don’t want to associate with that person very much. They aren’t likely to be fun to chill with.
The Princess Bride is many things to many people. As a child I was wowed by the adventure, but as an adult I find myself drawn to the excellent dialogue and the endlessly funny characters and scenarios. The movie is endless quotable, as you surely know, and provides a fun experience for any age. It’s the perfect film to throw in after a long day, the kind of film that will make you laugh and fill you up with just that tiny bit of wonder. In my opinion, that is the definition of a classic.
The Princess Bride