The Princess Bride (1987)

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Few films can please the restless masses that inevitably gather at some unfortunate souls home for a movie night. Because as varied and diverse individuals of a myriad of backgrounds we very rarely agree on anything especially given the proliferation of content that is available to us at any given time. But most can agree on one thing. The Princess Bride is one of the great crowd pleasers of its generation and for good reason.

If quotability was the sole parameter for a great movie then The Princess Bride has few equals and it also happens to be the most fun you’ll have in a single sitting because all that it does, it does with an unquenchable zeal. There’s a spirit to the film full of romance and humor and adventure, even playing to those who will forever be skeptical.

Adapted from his own novel, the venerable William Goldman carries over his framing device of a grandfather reading to his sick grandson and it works marvels to bring us into this tale. Especially when the two actors in question are a precocious Fred Savage (Pre-Wonder Years) and the inimitable Peter Falk (Post-Columbo) slipping seamlessly into the role of a grandpa with a twinkle in his eye.

The story unravels like many great fables with a love story torn asunder by circumstance. A young man who goes off to seek his fortune only to die (or more likely take on the identity of the Dread Pirate Roberts) and a young maiden who is made a princess and remains unhappy all the same without her true love. Of course, she does not understand the nefarious intentions of her soon to be husband Humperdinck nor that her love is going to great lengths to find her. And amidst the fantasy, swordplay, trickery, and rampant humor, love conquers all as it has a habit of doing in fairy tales with everyone of note living happily ever after.

This unabashed tale also boasts near pitch-perfect casting. Cary Elwes as Westley does embody a certain quietly confident charm that while not quite Flynn or Fairbanks still manages to guide the film with similar charisma. He can be the hero, handsome and witty, made to play perfectly off all the intriguing figures who inhabit this fairy tale.

In her debut, Robin Wright glows with a radiant beauty and stubborn defiance that’ s enduring and which in many ways has remained a defining moment in her career and it’s certainly not a bad film to be forever remembered for. Meanwhile, Mandy Patinkin plays the vengeful Spaniard Inigo Montoya with the perfect amount of bravado, honor, and charm in his lifelong search for the six-fingered man who killed his beloved father. He’s the perfect accompaniment for Andre the Giant’s lovable brand of brawn and Wallace Shawn’s hilariously irritating turn as their cackling leader.

But what makes the film even better or the odd sorts who pop up here and there including Miracle Max (Billy Crystal) a curmudgeon wisecracker like no other and The Impressive Clergyman (played by the oft-underrated Peter Cook) who single-handedly ruined the solemnity of wedding vows for all eternity.

Rob Reiner is rarely considered a masterful director but if anything it’s easy to make the case that The Princess Bride remains years later his greatest achievement because it has so much life provided indubitably by Goldman’s superlative script and the very figures who dare to fill his world. And Reiner captures it all with a clarity that comprehends the humor but very rarely goes for that at the expense of characters or story (unless they are villains or Billy Crystal). After all, this isn’t a Mel Brooks film.

By this point, it’s a disservice to call The Princess Bride a parody or mere homage– simply a cult classic that’s garnered widespread affection. The reason people love this film is connected to those aspects but also the very fact it stands on its own.

As Falk sings the praises of the story early on, so we can affirm, it has “Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” If that’s not exciting nothing is and it’s quite easy to forget that the film is continuously hilarious but there’s something remarkably moving about its story.  It plays the comedy well but simultaneously builds its own road through the mythology and fantasy of fairy tales that have captivated all people for eons.

In The Princess Bride, there’s not simply roots in comedies like The Court Jester but swashbucklers like The Adventures of Robin Hood or the magical journeying of the Wizard of Oz. It covers the spectrum of entertainment which is part of the reason it’s so satisfying.

It has scenes, moments, lines, those little idiosyncrasies and quirks that have left an indelible mark on viewers and as a result our culture as a whole. Lines like “As you wish,” “INCONCEIVABLE,” or best yet, “My Name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father. Prepare to die.” Each has its special place within the context of the film and is still imbued with that same meaning hours after.

If I write about this film more from my heart than my head you’ll have to forgive but it truly is a weakness. I can envision being little Fred Savage enchanted by the sheer magic of fairy tales. I wouldn’t begin to care about romance until years later but swashbuckling and humor always had me enthralled and they continue to capture my imagination to this day–no more powerfully than in The Princess Bride.  It’s sheer magic in all the best ways.

5/5 Stars

My Dinner with Andre (1981)

18639-my_dinner_with_andre_1981_Directed by Louis Maille and starring Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory playing characters named after themselves, this interesting film has a relatively simple, albeit, unique premise. A writer who lives in New York goes to a dinner engagement with a man who he used to know well. 

However, he approaches their meeting with some anxiety not knowing what to expect from a man who has no doubt changed. Andre greets Wally and pretty soon they are talking about this and that as they wait for their food. Andre initially talks about his experiences abroad in Poland, Findhorn Scotland, and even the Sahara. All the while Andre experimented with spiritual encounters, met unusual artists, and took part in performance art. During his time away he was made to contemplate humanity, life, death, and many other profound subjects. 

Wally for his part describes his own life in contrast and what he thinks about his more droll existence. It includes spending time with his girlfriend, reading an autobiography on Charlton Heston, sleeping with an electric blanket, and trying to write plays. Andre on his part believes there are problems with this lifestyle because it is more like a dream than reality. 

Both men leave the meeting content and Wally rides off in a taxi ready to tell his girlfriend about his dinner with Andre. Andre Gregory represents your philosophical existentialist who is discontent with the normalcy of life. Then, Wallace Shawn is your common everyman who lives his days simply, content with simple comforts and a normal existence. Maybe not your normal dinner conversation, but after all it is a movie. This film is certainly not for those with a short attention span and I myself find this film more intriguing in concept rather than in practice. However, there are many philosophical issues here so if you are ready to ponder and sit back so the conversation can flood over you, it can be an interesting film to take in.

3.5/5 Stars

The Princess Bride (1987)

f1a6c-princess_brideDirected by Bob Reiner and starring an esemble cast this has to be the best action-comedy-romance-fantasy ever. It starts with a grandpa (Peter Falk), reading his grandson a fairy tale. In the story there was a peasant boy (Cary Elwes) devoted to a beautiful girl (Robin Wright). However, she treated him poorly and is eventually married off to the Prince Humperdink against her will. She is then kidnapped by a group consisting of a giant, a swordsman, and a self-proclaimed genius. Her devoted love comes to the rescue but Humperdink takes her back and has her true love tortured. Joining forces with the giant and the swordsman Inigo, along with the help of Miracle Max, Wesley leads a daring rescue. He arrives in the nick of time and his friends show great bravery. He saves his damsel in distress and they live happily ever after. This film is in a category all by itself and it is very quotable if not in fact inconceivable.

4.5/5 Stars