Mar 29, 2013

[Movies] The Princess Bride (1987)

It's hard to explain in so many words what makes The Princess Bride such an essential film. It's one of those movies that I feel everyone should watch at least once in their lives even if I will never go as far as saying that it is one of the best movies out there.

But you don't have to be the "best" in order to be well-loved, and that's what this movie really is. It is a classic story told in a manner that is complete with riddles, swashbuckling adventure and the mushy stuff to boot. It's a story that can be appreciated by both girls and boys (of all ages).

And it's pretty darn funny, too.

No matter how old you are (or even how young), this is a movie that you absolutely need to watch, if only to be whisked away from your real world troubles for a while by going back to a time of simpler, yet no less beautiful, stories.

Synopsis: The Princess Bride is a 1987 romantic comedy based on the William Goldman novel of the same name. It was directed by Rob Reiner based on a screenplay by William Goldman as well. It may not have one major awards, but it has been frequently included in various Top 100~ lists for various categories.

The movie is presented as it originally was a book, or in this case a book being read by a grandfather (Peter Falk) to his sick grandson (Fred Savage). Thus we switch between the action in the book and the exchanges outside the story between the two.

So the story within the story starts with a young woman named Buttercup (Robin Wright), who lives on a farm in Florin. The farm hand, Wesley (Cary Elwes), has the quirky habit of responding to any request that she makes with the one line - "As you wish." As is the way of these stories, eventually Buttercup realizes that she loves Wesley. He eventually leaves the farm to seek out his fortune in order to ask for her hand, but his ship is attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts.

Years pass and Buttercup eventually accepts the reality that Wesley may very well be dead. She accepts a marriage proposal from Prince Humperdink (Chris Sarandon). But just before her wedding, she is kidnapped by an unusual trio of criminals - the genius Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), the fearsome giant Fezzik (Andre the Giant), and the Spanish fencing master Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin). Prince Humperdink goes out in search of his bride - and so does a masked man dress all in black.

Admittedly I think a lot of the success of this movie lies heavily on the interaction between the sick boy and his grandfather. They take the perspective of the audience in this tale and thus help us frame our expectations while also verbalizing a lot of the questions we're thinking about with regard to Buttercup and her plight. And it truly adds a nice perspective to things that also helps the guys in the audience appreciate the seeming female-oriented story a heck of a lot more.

Given its origins as a book, it's only natural that the movie features some very distinct and creative characters. And they're not one-trick ponies but rather fully-developed individuals who manage to share parts of their histories with the audience over the course of the movie. Thus the story remains rather simple overall but also hints at a greater narrative beyond the what narrative is covered here.

And the movie is just so darned quotable. Beyond the largely untapped power of the line "As you wish" to turn the heart of any girl raised on this movie, we have the fun bits of dialog like "Inconceivable!" and of course Inigo Montoya's pledge to kill his father's six-fingered killer. Yeah, I find myself quoting that bit for no particular reason time and again.

Admittedly I can't exactly praise the acting of our leads, Robin Wright and Cary Elwes. But they're not exactly bad either - they're just okay. But when you bring in the rest of the cast - one that surprisingly includes Billy Crystal (but this was the 80's after all) and somehow the interaction of the ensemble just came out spectacularly. It's a story that will warm any heard and make one remember the joys of a really good fairy tale on a miserable night. Stories and change emotions after all.

The Princess Bride is more than just a cult classic given its success in the home video market - I feel it's more of a cultural phenomenon. It's hard to perfectly explain why this movie has had such a profound effect on so many people, but its magic holds true even now. Thus the movie heartily rates a full 5 challenges that our masked man has to face out of a possible 5.

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