The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride

****

Reviewed by: Stuart Crawford

For anyone born in the 1980s to be unfamiliar with The Princess Bride is, well, inconceivable. A cult classic, it's perhaps the second most quoted film of all time, after Monty Python And The Holy Grail.

We follow the fortunes of Westley, a poor farm worker who is cruelly robbed of his true love, and who must embark upon a quest to retrieve her. Along the way he battles some unlikely monsters and gains some equally unlikely companions, triumphing over adversity with a combination of intelligence and skill, only to be thwarted by the machinations of the evil Prince Humperdinck. When Westley finds himself mostly killed, it's up to his newfound friends—master swordsman Inigo Montoya and hulking giant Fezzik—to save him and assist him in his quest. Will they succeed? Of course they will, it's never in doubt. The delight is in discovering just how they succeed, equipped with only Westley's wits, Fezzik's strength, and Inigo's steel. And a wheelbarrow. And a holocaust cloak.

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The story is constructed from the usual fairytale fare, with a kidnapped princess, a daring rescue, and mild peril. Along the way are some excellent swordfights, battles of wits, miracle workers, and rodents of unusual size. As the story unfolds we are reminded, at intervals, that it is a fairytale book being read to a bedridden Fred Savage by his Grandfather, played by Peter Falk. Why this was felt necessary is unclear, as it serves only to ruin a few good moments with childish protestations about kissing being icky, and the like.

These lapses are easily forgiven, though, due to the charming nature of the rest of the film. It has a fairly gentle sense of humour, with most of the laughs coming from the absurdity of the situations the characters find themselves in. The cast, for the most part, do the film a great deal of credit. Cary Elwes is perfect as the dashing, roguish hero, and it's impossible to imagine anyone other than André the Giant playing the enormous Fezzik, as his naiveté and lack of acting skill work in the role's favour. The less said about Billy Crystal's performance the better, but his part is mercifully small.

At times slavishly following the fairytale format, at times shamelessly subverting it, The Princess Bride is marvellous entertainment for all ages, and endlessly rewatchable. It does tend to get a little overly sentimental in places, but never oppressively so. It also features one of the most satisfying revenge sequences ever committed to film.

Heartily recommended to anyone and everyone.

Reviewed on: 31 Jul 2007
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The Princess Bride packshot
Ordinary farm boy Westley takes on the world to recover his true love in an enduringly popular comic fantasy.
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Director: Rob Reiner

Writer: William Goldman, adapted from his own novel.

Starring: Cary Elwes, Robin Wright Penn, Mandy Patinkin, André the Giant, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, Peter Falk

Year: 1987

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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