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"THE PRINCESS BRIDE" (1987) (Cary Elwes, Robin Wright) (PG)
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Adventure/Comedy: The grandfather of a boy sick in bed reads him a fairy tale that includes true love, evil royalty, swordfights, a giant, a miracle maker, large rodents, torture, and still much more.
The grandfather (PETER FALK) of a sick boy (FRED SAVAGE) comes to visit, bringing with him a book called "The Princess Bride," sitting down to read it to the boy who at first doubts its value, but gets increasingly involved, even to the point of calling the grandfather on certain plot points that shouldn't happen.
The story itself has at its center a girl named Buttercup (ROBIN WRIGHT) who enjoys ordering around the farm boy Westley (CARY ELWES), who accedes to her every command with a simple "As you wish." They fall in love and because he doesn't have enough wealth to marry her, Westley goes out on the seas to make some money and is kidnapped by the unseen Dread Pirate Roberts. Five years pass and Buttercup agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck (CHRIS SARANDON), royalty in the country of Florin, never giving up hope that her Westley is still alive.
Amidst all this, Buttercup is kidnapped by a scheming man named Vizzini (WALLACE SHAWN) and his two cohorts, the vengeful Inigo (MANDY PATINKIN) and the enormous Fezzik (ANDRE THE GIANT), both of whom make up brains and strength, though not according to Vizzini. The story weaves and twists, as Vizzini and Fezzik contend separately with the mysterious, yet skilled and quick-moving Man in Black, and there's also the Cliffs of Insanity, the Fire Swamp, the Pit of Despair, and the usual spate of evil doings.
OUR TAKE: 10 out of 10
Do you know what true love is in the movies? I don't mean just heartfelt romance such as that between the farmboy Westley (Cary Elwes) and the beautiful girl Buttercup (Robin Wright) in this movie, "The Princess Bride," but love when you see a movie that you're really into, or when you make a list of those movies you love. Which ones, when you think about them, make you excited to sit down and watch them again? Which ones evoke fond memories?
Like many movies I love deeply, I don't remember how I came upon "The Princess Bride," just that I couldn't believe the wealth of incredible characterizations, humor, story and romance in what was one film of an amazing streak of quality that director Rob Reiner had, from "This is Spinal Tap" in 1984 to "The American President" in 1995. And it wasn't just Reiner making "The Princess Bride" a film that I love even more every time I see it. "The Princess Bride" was a book first by William Goldman, and he also wrote the screenplay
Within that screenplay comes a surface beginning where a grandfather (Peter Falk) visits his sick-in-bed grandson (Fred Savage) to read him a book called "The Princess Bride." The grandfather begins reading and we get Westley and Buttercup right away, then he goes away at sea to make some money in order to marry Buttercup, then she is kidnapped by three men, then reunites with Westley, and that's exactly how "The Princess Bride" operates. It's just as breathless as what I wrote. It zooms from scene to scene to scene, giving us great actors at each stop. The three men are Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), the leader of this small criminal team, Inigo (Mandy Patinkin), and the mammoth Fezzik (Andre the Giant). Vizzini's whiny, Inigo's intense, and Fezzik is the kind of man you want on your side if you have to fight anyone, but he's also reasonable. He's not taken by Vizzini's reason for kidnapping Buttercup. He doesn't agree with it.
There is so much to latch onto in this movie, so much for each member of a family that watches it together to love. There are jokes that kids and adults will get, and some that only adults will pick up on, such as the villainous Prince Humperdinck's (Chris Sarandon) explanation to his right-hand man Count Rugen (Christopher Guest) about how busy he is. Have you ever seen another movie where someone evil is so forthright about their plans? Many of the James Bond movies you may be thinking of do not count as those villains just keep talking and talking.
The big attraction for me in "The Princess Bride" is the swordfights. The best swordfight in movie history is between Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone in 1940's "The Mark of Zorro." The swordfight between Cary Elwes as the Man in Black in that sequence, and Mandy Patinkin is the second-best swordfight in movie history. Reiner seems so appreciative of the skill inherent in swordplay that he follows each move closely and carefully. I don't know of any other swordfight which feels like this and which is able to get a few laughs in along the way. It's one of the reasons I've seen "The Princess Bride," oh, more times than could be considered humanely possible.
Add in cameos by Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, and Peter Cook, and what you've got is what should now be considered a classic of the 1980s, a classic overall, and what you should see already if you haven't seen it yet. This is what true love of the movies feels like. This is pure pleasure that rates a 10 out of 10. (R. Aronsky)