The Princess Bride is the ultimate family movie.
The Princess Bride is the ultimate family movie.
For years Pixar have had the
monopoly on such things; the ability to appeal to young and old alike on
various different levels while universally sweeping you away on an adventure
that makes kids euphoric and adults young again. But on some level they owe all their success to The Princess Bride. For here is a film that takes a simple
story and layers it with enough irony, satire and outright magic to pick you
up, carry you off to a far off land and make you realise the importance of true
love and a well spun yarn.
Sick in bed a
young boy (Fred Savage) receives an
unexpected visit from his Grandfather (Peter
Falk). In order to cheer the
boy up the old man sits down to read the story of The Princess Bride. Worried that the book might be a
“kissing story”, his grandfather reassures him it is much more than mere
romance. And so begins the story
of Buttercup (Robin Wright) as she falls
in love with her farm boy Westley (Cary
Elwes). But when Westley is
murdered by The Dread Pirates Roberts, Buttercup is devastated and agrees to
marry Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon). Shortly before their marriage Buttercup
is kidnapped by the plotting Vizzini (Wallace
Shaw) with the aid of his giant Fezzik (Andre The Giant) and his Spanish swordsman Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin). Shortly after the trio have taken the
princess-to-be, they soon realise they are being pursued by the Man In Black,
who will stop at nothing to get his hands on Buttercup.
There is a moment
on the Blu-ray extras of The Princess
Bride in which star Cary Elwes tells us; “Fairy tales are very important
because they’re myths that contain little morality tales. There’s a reason they’ve remained
popular for so long.” The same is
also true of the film itself.
There is universality about this story within a story. The magic of story telling that even at
our lowest, a good yarn can transport us to another place, a place where
adventures rule and characters are larger than life.
Long before Shrek
sent up the concept of Fairy Tales, William
Goldman’s book was dazzling readers.
He later wrote the screenplay and managed to bag one of Hollywood’s most
prize directors in the shape of Rob
Reiner. Hot off the back of
triple hits; The Sure Thing, This Is Spinal Tap and Stand By Me, Reiner was the ideal
candidate to direct The Princess Bride.
He could do comedy, as proved with The Sure Thing, he could do satire as
shown with Spinal Tap and he could do literary adaptations as demonstrated by Stephen King’s Stand By Me.
The results are
nothing short of captivating. From
the endlessly memorable set-pieces; Inigo’s sword fight with the Man In Black,
the fire swamp and of course the climb up the Cliffs Of Insanity, through to
some of cinema’s most memorably quotable lines such as; “My name is Inigo
Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die” and every man’s go to line to
his loved one; “As you wish”. The Princess Bride is one of those
films that keeps on giving.
Like the fairy
tales it reveres and sends up in equal measure, The Princess Bride is a film that is effortlessly passed from
generation to generation. The
effects, while only slightly dated, are intentionally kitsch. They put to shame the intended
rubber-ness of a Doctor Who by using
practical effects to imaginative quality. Everything we see exist in a world formed in a young boy’s
imagination rather than the nightmarish vision of say a Tim Burton. The ROUS
(Rodents Of Unusual Size) is just one such example that lasts long in the
memory. But more than anything it
is a film that, while you might have fond memories of watching as a child, has
some how matured with age.
Watching it as an adult is more rewarding than the mere thrill of
Wesley’s quest to get back his love Buttercup. Now you see the wonderful asides, the familiarity of Savage’s
young boy predicting what will happen next as his grandfather responds with
“Yes, you’re very smart. Shut up.”
Or the relentless dialogue between characters that is just as much a
battle of wits as Vizzini’s duel with The Man In Black.
There is not a
single member of the cast who is not on career best form. Cary Elwes, with his Errol Flynn looks should probably have
gone on to greater things given his performance here. Dry, sarcastic with just the right amount of swashbuckling
heroism to make him an endlessly lively hero, it is a shame he would be later
cast as Robin Hood in Robin Hood Men In
Tights when he could easily have played the role to more serious
levels. Robin Wright, at her
ethereal best, hams up the melodrama to brimming damsel in distress
levels. Chris Sarandon and Christopher
Guest are both brilliantly deadpan villains who never lose that slightly
flummoxed look of “are we the bad guys?” mentality. Billy Crystal
almost single-handedly steels the show with his typically wisecracking routine
as Miracle Max. But the real stars
are Andre The Giant and Mandy Patinkin.
Andre’s gentle giant is so softly spoken and cuddly you long for a big bear
hug from him. Meanwhile Patinkin,
better known these days as Homeland’s
Saul, is utterly hysterical as the naïve Inigo Montoya. His confused and furrowed brow at every
obstacle is never anything less than brilliant.
rough-cut screening of the film Mandy Patinkin openly admits to weeping. The tears were tears of joy at being
part of such a magical film. For
everyone else The Princess Bride is
more than magic, it is a staple of childhood films, of sitting down on a Sunday
afternoon and being transported to a world like no other. If you don’t find yourself picking up a
pen, broom or chopstick and uttering the words “My name is Inigo Montoya, you
killed my father, prepare to die” then you have probably passed out with sheer