Not many films say 1980s fantasy like The Princess Bride. From the score, to the acting, to the opening scene being a child playing HardBall! – it doesn’t get much more 80s. It came out in 1987: 30 years later, has it stood the test of time?
It follows a child (Fred Savage) being read a book by his Grandpa about the adventures of a girl called Buttercup (Robin Wright): the most beautiful girl in the world. After agreeing to marry Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), she is kidnapped, only to be saved by the Man In Black (Carey Elwes). What follows is basically a competition to see whether the Prince or the Man in Black can marry Buttercup without dying first.
With a screenplay written by William Goldman (based on his book), The Princess Bride is a classic, familiar story of a princess, her true love, and the forces that come between them. The direction by Rob Reiner as well as the writing come together to form the perfect partnership, bringing strength and enjoyment to the storyline. In general, the film is brilliantly well made. As any fan of the movie will tell you, however, it is the film’s whimsical, irreverent, pervasive tongue-in-cheek antics that make it an unqualified masterpiece.
While The Princess Bride has the sort of satirical edge more geared towards adults, the film is equally effective as a pure fairytale, and for this reason, there is a little something for everyone. In addition, the film enacts a self-referential tribute to the power and beauty of fairytale stories, even in the current age in which many consider them archaic and obsolete.
The characters themselves are what make the movie really special. Wallace Shawn is hilarious as Vizzini, the bonehead villain who thinks he has the world figured out. Andre the Giant, despite his limited acting experience, delivers a lumbering but highly impressive performance as Vizzini’s idiot sidekick; but none come close to the wonder that is Inigo Montoya. Mandy Patinkin is at his best in this film, spitting witty one-liners and some of the most professional-looking sword fighting in film.
You will almost never see two ambidextrous fencers set to in any film anywhere. It was pure coincidence that Carey Elwes and Mandy Patinkin were brought together to fence for this movie. It was, according to the director, unknown in advance that either of them were that good, or that they’d have such chemistry that fencing for the fun of it distracted them from filming all through the production.
The movie definitely has its faults. The special effects are lacklustre at best, especially in the fire swamp. The synth-heavy soundtrack is very ‘of its time’, and the characters are very two-dimensional. However, this only adds to the charm of the movie and, somehow, makes you love it even more.
The heart and soul of this movie is the fairytale. It has princesses, princes, pirates, swordsmen, giants, witches, and giant rats. What it also has, however, is humour. Rather than being the boring, sappy mess that usually comes with fairytales, The Princess Bride is a well-rounded, beautifully told story, with some of the best one liners in movie history. So much so, that the very idea that The Princess Bride has not stood the test of time is “inconceivable”.
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