Saturday, 22 August 2015

Film Review: The Princess Bride (1987)



© 20th Century Fox | Source: getfreshminds


 USA; 98 min.; adventure, romance, fantasy, comedy
Director: Rob Reiner
Writing: William Goldman
Cinematography: Adrian Biddle
Cast: Peter Falk, Fred Savage, Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon, Mandy Patinkin, Christopher Guest, André the Giant, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Mel Smith


 Vizzini: He didn’t fall?! Inconceivable!                                                                                   Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

I lately read William Goldman’s fabulous, witty, satirical, fairly-tale-like novel The Princess Bride and as you can already guess, I whole-heartedly loved it from start to finish. However, the book doesn’t really take itself seriously and proves oftentimes unreliable in its claims at historical accuracy or even the author’s writing process itself (there’s neither a Florin, nor a Morgenstern and accordingly no book written by him that Goldman could have read as a kid and so on.) That’s why I ended up doing a lot of doublechecking on Google and was thrilled to realise that the novel has been made into a movie, and according to the online critics a good one at that. So the moment I finished the novel, I turned to the film (you can watch the whole thing on YouTubeeven in HD.) 

The novel raised my expectations for the movie, to an almost unfair degree. I hoped for action, adventure, swordfights, witty dialogues, the most beautiful woman in the world, the strongest man in the world, the “inconceivable,” pirates, sharks, the Zoo of Death, the ROUSes (rodents of unusual size) and the kiss that is described as such: “Since the invention of the kiss, there have only been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind.”
Oh, and not to forget:

© 20th Century Fox | Source: memegenerator

As you can see I was really looking forward towards this one. The list above is fairly long. Easy-peasy for a book that can have as many pages as the author so desires, but a movie with only a limited amount of screen time (in this case precisely 98 minutes) will find it hard to include so many things without seeming jam-packed and rushed. So, unfortunately I must inform you that the Zoo of Death didn’t make it onto the screen and the sharks have been replaced by shrieking eels, but apart from that it’s all there.

But let’s start at the beginning. In the style of Goldman’s story of how he first came across the novel, the movie starts with an ill, bedridden boy (Fred Savage) who is read a story by his grandfather. Note that the grandfather is played by no other than Lieutenant Columbo, Peter Falk, who leads the narration and does not shy away from interrupting every now and then. Mostly when there is kissing involved. Yuck!

The story he tells his grandson is about a girl called Buttercup (Robin Wright), who lives on a farm and meanly orders around the farm boy who only ever replies “As you wish.” What he really means though is “I love you,” and one day, all of a sudden Buttercup realises that she loves him too. They kiss (a kiss interruptus though - thanks Frank and Peter) and then the farm boy, whose name is Westley (Cary Elwes), departs for America to earn the means he needs to provide his love with the kind of life he feels she deserves. Shortly after he left, Buttercup receives news that his ship has been attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never leaves anyone alive. So Westley is apparently dead and Buttercup vows never to love again and we are only just five minutes into the movie.

Five years later Prince Humperdinck of Florin (Chris Sarandon) decides to take Buttercup as his wife and she, assuring him that she does not and will never love him, agrees. Before the marriage takes place, Buttercup is kidnapped by a most curious trio. The head of the group is the clever Sicilian Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), then there is the Spanish master fencer Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and the strongest man in the world, the giant Fezzik (André the Giant.) They bring Buttercup into the bordering country Guilder and make no secret of their intention to kill her there and incite a war between Florin and Guilder. However, before they cross the border, a mysterious man in black catches up with them and tries to abduct their abductee. For that he has to challenge each of the three in their master discipline, resulting in a battle of swords, a battle of strength and a battle of wits.

© 20th Century Fox | Source: funnyand
I think that is enough to make you rightfully curious to watch the movie and you really should. The Princess Bride is the kind of classic movie that is suitable for everyone regardless of age. Children will love the fairy tale-like story of the beautiful princess in distress and the exciting plot as such, whereas adults will also cherish the humour and the parodic elements that ridicule the conventions of sword and sorcery movies. 

Plus, seeing as the movie is fairly old (it was filmed in 1987!) it provides us with a somewhat different viewing experience from what we are used to nowadays. For example, I found the obtrusiveness with which the music underlined the action scenes utterly comical. Every clash of swords or even the battle of Fezzik’s sheer mass against a locked door is accentuated with tuba and trombone. Or just look at the often overdone acting by Miracle Max (Billy Crystal – a chocolate-coated pill to revive the dead, anyone?) or the Albino (Mel Smith), which reminds a little of a Monty Python movie. But then this silliness is deliberate and although it’s sometimes a little too much for my taste, it fits into the self-ironic tone of the movie. 

On a whole, the cast is doing a brilliant job, Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin especially so. They really manage to fill out their roles and there is a kind of chemistry between them that makes their exchanges hilarious to watch. And the movie version of Buttercup is far more likeable than her book pendant, who is more of a nuisance on two legs with peas for brains.

Lastly, note that The Princess Bride goes way back to a time before CGI and when there was still a limit to what could be done with special effects, so I think the performance of the ROUSes, who were played by actual people in costumes (duh!) and dubbed by director Rob Reiner himself, deserve some extra credit, which they now get from me. Well done.

© 20th Century Fox | Source: buzzfeed
So you see The Princess Bride is a charming, forthright, witty, storybook-like classic that can be enjoyed on various levels and is accordingly suitable for all age groups. It mixes an adult kind of humour with a childlike sense of wonder and if that’s still not enough for you, try making a drinking game out of every time Inigo says his catch phrase. 

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

Drunken stupor guaranteed. You’re welcome.


Rating:   


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