The Princess Bride (1987)
The Princess Bride (1987)

Genre: Adventure and Fantasy Running Time: 1 hr. 38 min.

Release Date: October 9th, 1987 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Rob Reiner Actors: Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, Andre the Giant, Fred Savage, Peter Falk, Peter Cook, Carol Kane, Billy Crystal

 


 

A

young boy (Fred Savage), afflicted by a cold, receives a visit from his grandfather (Peter Falk) – a man who enjoys pinching the child’s cheeks. Though the grandson just wants to lie in bed and play sports video games, the wise elder brings a novel to read. “When i was your age, television was called books!” After promising that the story includes fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, monsters, true love, miracles, and more, the boy agrees that hearing the tale can’t be all that bad.

In a faraway land, Buttercup (Robin Wright) rides horses all day and amuses herself by ordering small tasks of a poor farm boy, Westley (Cary Elwes), who peers deeply into her eyes and utters only the words, “As you wish.” But when he’s forced to depart and his boat is attacked by the notorious Dread Pirate Roberts – who never takes prisoners – Buttercup is beside herself with guilt and depression. Five years later, Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) announces his bride-to-be, a commoner to impress the people – none other than the very indifferent, disinterested, still heartbroken Buttercup. In one month, on the 500th anniversary of the kingdom of Florin, the “princess” bride will be wed.

One day, as Buttercup consoles herself on horseback in the forest, she’s startled by a trio of lost circus performers. But they’re actually kidnappers, who wish to start a war between bitter rival kingdoms (Guilder and Florin), hoping to use her corpse as a starting point. Vizzini the Sicilian (Wallace Shawn) is the ringleader, continually spouting orders and insults; Fezzik (Andre the Giant) is a hulking bodyguard and minion; and Inigo Montoya the Spaniard (Mandy Patinkin) is a master swordfighter, who bides his time working for Vizzini (and to pay the bills) while awaiting an eventual, vengeful confrontation with the evildoer who left him fatherless. “My father was slaughtered by a six-fingered man.” But a masked sailor, clad all in black, steadily, unstoppably approaches, as if to steal the princess away from her takers.

“Inconceivable!” What “The Princess Bride” does so much better than the competition is to marry adventure with comedy. The film is instantly notable for its scripting, as characters speak brilliantly witty lines, exchange subtle barbs (or even dispense plain wisecracks), and exhibit a mirthful behavior far more gentlemanly than most filmic combatants. It’s fantasy-oriented, but it’s also quite heroic, with respect, honor, unmatched nobleness, and an air of sportsmanship for each persona, entirely befitting of this lighthearted, whimsical fairy tale. In many ways, it’s as if a rip-roaring cartoon narrative came to life.

Amusingly, the film is also a hopelessly romantic love story, told with enough action and peril to bamboozle audiences right alongside the grandson, who insists that his grandfather skip past the mushy parts. As it turns out, the romance is an integral part of the journey, defiantly increasing the character development and amplifying the poignancy of the lead characters’ successes. It’s sweet and sentimental and wholly convincing, particularly as it aims to highlight, in a self-aware manner, the power and persuasion of intelligent storytelling – the movie magic inherent in extraordinary fiction.

As the picture practically spoofs the endeavors of Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn (as well as other grand adventurer properties such as Sinbad, Zorro, and even Tarzan) through facetious commentary and comedic episodes (including through the ability to undo plot elements, thanks to the narrative structure, or to generate spontaneous assets for harrowing schemes), it’s also competent enough to craft its own identity as a swashbuckling thriller. With plenty of showdowns, courageous undertakings, dastardly villains, stirring music, and oversized rodents, “The Princess Bride” manages to encompass every aspect of chivalry and valiancy and last-minute rescues – while also mustering straight faces amid hilarious conduct. Quotable lines pop up every few minutes and many of the sequences are laugh-out-loud funny. And, perhaps most importantly, the project as a whole is entirely unforgettable.

– Mike Massie

  • 10/10