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USA 1987
Directed by
Rob Reiner
98 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Princess Bride, The

The Princess Bride, which is based on William Goldman's novel of the same name (Goldman also wrote the screenplay) is a spoof fairytale about a beautiful maiden (Robin Wright) being rescued from an evil prince (Chris Sarandon), by her dashing beau (Cary Elwes). With its absurdist approach to the genre‘s conventions it’s got a sort of low register Monty Python vibe, something helped out by cameo appearances from the likes of English comedians Mel Smith and Peter Cook, but it’s still hard to explain its cult status. Put it down to the 1980s which was characterized by its affinity for taking cheesiness seriously and you’re probably as close as you’re ever going to get to an answer

The 80s are well evident in the framing device of a grandfather (Peter Falk) reading “The Princes Bride” to his sick grandson (Fred Savage) who lies in bed surrounded by the standard décor of a pre-teen of the era.  This is periodically returned to from the magical land of Florin and the story of the true love between Buttercup (Wright)  and Westley (Elwes).

The fairy tale unfolds in the typical manner but is peppered with ridiculous non sequitors. Thus, Wallace Shawn plays a Sicilian bandit Vizzini, who bullies his companions and fancies himself as highly intelligent, the giant Fezzik (Andre the Giant, evidently the model for Shrek) and Inigo Montoya (Mandy Pantankin) who is searching for the six-fingered man who killed his father. The fleeing lovers are attacked by ROUS (Rodents of Unusual Size) and Westley is brought back to life by a Jewish goblin, Miracle Max (Billy Crystal). In addition the settings look intentionally fake and the story unfolds with a transparently modern sense of humour  (for instance, when Vizzini is engaged in a battle of wits with The Man in Black there is a reference to Australia being populated by criminals).

The Princes Bride is to say the least an odd film to be associated with Goldman who is better known for heavy-hitters such as All The President’s Men and The Marathon Man but this perhaps explains the meta-level at which it is pitched.  In this respect Reiner was a good choice of director and the film shares some communality with his hit from three years earlier This Is Spinal Tap (co-writer of that film, Christopher Guest, appears here as the six-fingered Count Ruger).  Even so, you probably had to be there to be a real fan of The Princess Bride today,




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