The Princess Bride (1987)

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

 

It seems inconceivable I would remain oblivious to this humorous piece of satire for most of my life. In fact had my sister not chosen to bring it with her on one of her annual visits, I might have remained in the virtual dark to The Princess Bride for an extended number of years. This review is to serve the purpose you do not fall prey to a similar (terrible) fate. Part satire, part irony, and all wit, The Princess Bride is the story of two lovers separated by death... or are they? It's a wonderful classic that holds up to this day as one of the great fairy tale spoofs of all time.

 

The farm girl Buttercup's sole pleasure in life is tormenting the farm boy Wesley (Cary Elwes). To each request is given the single-sentence response: "As you wish." Eventually she came to realize instead of "As you wish," he was really saying "I love you," and how grand was the day when she learned that she loved him in return! Desiring to make a name for himself, Wesley sets out across the sea to make his fortune, but his ship is set upon by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never leaves prisoners alive. Her darling is killed, and Buttercup (Robin Wright) pledges never to love again. She keeps that vow through the years until she is engaged in marriage to the pompous Prince Humperdink (Chris Serandon). Now graced with wealth and privilege but still a dormant love prevailing her heart, her only joy is the daily activity of her morning ride. Upon one such morning she is attacked by a threesome of travelers (played by Andre the Giant, Mandy Patinkin, and Wallace Shawn), who intend to murder her and leave her on the Guilder Frontier to blame the neighboring kingdom and cast the country into civil war.

 

Vizzini is agreeable to this plan but his two companions, giant Fezzek and Spanish swordsman Inigo are not so sure. After all, when they agreed to this job he never "said anything about killing an innocent girl." Her attempted escape is thwarted and Buttercup is forced to resign herself to her fate... until a mysterious "man in black" intervenes. His ship is seen in the mist following at a distance, and he even goes so far as to track them up the Cliffs of Insanity. Is his intention to rescue Buttercup or to steal her for his own purposes? The three comical villains have met their match in this charming, quick-witted, and dangerous advisory who has a strange aversion to Buttercup. In the meantime Prince Humperdink has set out to find her kidnappers and make them pay... or has he? Maybe he won't come to her rescue... or maybe he's planning some dastardly scheme with his six-fingered sidekick Count Rugan (Christopher Guest) and the pale-faced albino who guards the castle prison. Or perhaps there's nothing up at all!

 

Full of twists and turns, hilarious side plots and vividly-painted characters, The Princess Bride is a film the entire family can enjoy together. This movie has it all... "Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles" and much, much more. The fencing is intricate and well-played, the acting done in perfection and while some of the effects seem dated, the story itself will carry you along with reckless abandon, hurling toward a thrilling and hilarious climax. A spoof on-par with Maverick, it mocks the elements of every good fairy tale... the dumb princess, the dim-witted giant, the vengeful swordsman, the mysterious pirate... and the evil prince, with a few surprises thrown in for good measure.  The film's only cautions involve a practical use of magic (debated as mere medicine) by "Miracle Max" (a cameo by Billy Crystal) who tries to bring the man in black back to life, one profanity ("son of a...") and some violent swordplay. Buttercup and the pirate are attacked in the Fire Swamp by a giant rodent. There's a torture session or two and some hand-to-hand combat.

 

True, it does contain the theme of revenge and makes a mockery of a stuttering priest, but it's all in good fun and not mean to be offensive. Like few films of its genre, there is only an honest desire to promote laughter from the audience, without the use of sexual gags. It is a great movie and one my family has watched many, many times since its discovery... a classic belonging on everyone's shelf. The costuming is absolutely gorgeous, Buttercup is beautiful, Wesley is utterly divine, and the characters and situations will leave you laughing the night away. The dialogue will stick with you and resurface time and time again; the romance is a pure one, sweet and yet passionate. It's got enough swordplay to encourage guy viewers and a dazzling romance for the girls... all mixed into a delightful bag of the unexpected.