Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Princess Bride (Reiner. 1987)

"My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."


Fairy tales are for little kids, right? This would be the case an overwhelmingly large amount of the time. And as we know, I am not the biggest fan of little kid movies. This is why Rob Reiner's The Princess Bride is such an important film in my book. The 1077 Films to See Before You Die is filled with movies that are targeted towards adults or children. This is a film that can be equally enjoyed by men, women, boy or girl of every age and demographic....though a lot of us would not like to admit that.

The Princess Bride opens with a young Fred Savage sick in his bed. His grandfather, played by Peter Falk, offers to read him a story that is filled with "fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love and miracles." Though this sounds like a typical telling of a storybook fairy tale, we can tell that there is going to be something original about this narrative. And it all starts with Falk's wry deliveries in telling the love affair between Princess Buttercup and Westley.

Buttercup is played by the gorgeous Robin Wright. Throughout the first part of the picture we see a developing romance between her and the farm boy, Westley. He is played by the hilarious Cary Elwes. The chemistry between the two is heartwarmingly palpable. The simple phrase "as you wish" has never had such romantic power. But like in all fairy tales, true love cannot be had that easily. Princess Buttercup is kidnapped by a group of scoundrels, and the poor farm boy is assumed dead at the hands of Dread Pirate Roberts.

But as William Goldman's screenplay playfully points out, our main characters cannot just die off that quickly. In an unexpected twist, Westley returns as the Dread Pirate Roberts to save the love of his life. Along the way, he defeats and befriends two fellow outlaws in Inigo Montoya and Fezzik. These two are played by Mandy Patinkin and Andre the Giant, respectively, and add some very quirky comedic angles to the story.

It does not take long for adults to realize that they are not watching a legitimate fantasy love story. Instead, they are watching a maturely crafted parody of not only fantasy and fairy tale, but also of the swashbuckling films of the easy days. Elwes' debonair Dread Pirate Roberts character is a seemingly direct homage to the Errol Flynn heartthrobs in films like Captain Blood (1935). This makes the character that much more hilarious because his suave demeanor is not backed with the same impeccable sense of masculine sexuality. It would be like me putting on boxing gloves and pretending to be Rocky Balboa.

Reiner and Goldman have no problem poking fun at their own film within the dialogue and action, and this is what makes The Princess Bride a great movie. It never allows you to rest on one joke for too long. It is a constantly moving parody that never runs out of punchline. I would say that this is a finer film than anything Mel Brooks made after High Anxiety (1977), but Elwes' performance in Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993) actually makes that statement rather difficult to stand behind. In the end, the fact that I can honestly compare Reiner with Brooks on a comedic scale is pretty impressive on its own.

Rob Reiner was on a roll in the mid to late 1980's. His films were all very sweet and original in their ability to make an audience fall in love. And though he did go on to make stinkers like North (1994) - the film that Roger Ebert famously reviewed with- "I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it.", his contributions to 80's pop culture are difficult to deny.

The Princess Bride epitomizes the idea of fun for the whole family. It is sweet, sentimental, fun and hysterical. And though the film does contain some kissing, missing out in this classic would simply be inconceivable.

The Princess Bride: B+

My Next Film....Mulholland Dr. (Lynch. 2001)

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