The Princess Bride (1987) (PG)

More so than any other director Rob Reiner sashays from one genre to the next with every single picture he makes and never misses a beat. His debut feature "This Is Spinal Tap", widely considered to be one of the most daring debuts from a director, was a mockumentary which cemented the popularity of the sub-genre. Going on to "Stand by Me", Reiner established his credibility; but his roots remain in comedy even though he has under his belt such works as "A Few Good Men" and Stephen King's "Misery". He's had his hitches with movies like "North"; but die hard fans and the general public can tell you that Reiner never really fell into a rut.
With a picture like "The Princess Bride" Reiner proves that he can maneuver through whatever script he picks to direct, and he brings one of the weirdest cult films to screen. Being possibly the most celebrated semi-cult film ever, "The Princess Bride" balances drama and comedy and farce with its tale.
Based on William Goldman's book of the same name "The Princess Bride" is a movie that concerns revenge, absurdity, but mostly true love.
The movie opens with a young boy in his room, sick. His grandfather has shown up to read him a book called The Princess Bride. Not entirely happy with putting up with his ancestor's odd antics, the boy mopes and whines until the reading begins.
Then we are transported to a realm with giants, miracles, sword fights, and...of course....true love.
Buttercup (Robin Wright) is a spoiled girl, she gets her kicks by making the stable boy do meaningless chores for her. Every thing she asks of him, he always responds with: "As you wish". She beings to realize that every time he says "As you wish" to her, he's actually saying: "I love you."
Our sick boy interrupts his grandfather, skeptical about reading a romance novel. But the grandfather pushes on and the story continues.
The stableboy, now named Westley (Cary Elwes), goes off to make a living. At sea Westley is attacked by a pirate and assumed to be dead. Driven into melancholia, Buttercup is discovered by the prince of the land, Humperdinck. He is captivated by her beauty and vows to make her his wife and she's not at a place to deny him his wishes.
But things don't always turn out as they might seem. Kidnapping, betrayal, fencing, and revenge—all of them ensue.
Reiner's film is unashamed almost to a fault. The dry humor and odd one-liners never cease from the moment the screen opens until the very last frame.
Perhaps a satire or a parody of the fantasy quest film, "The Princess Bride" almost comes across as spoofing a work like Don Quixote or the like.
The scenes are famous from the film—Mandy Patinkin flashing a sword and vowing revenge, Cary Elwes being dragged around like a baby, Robin Wright's incessant over acting (she, by the way, is sensational in "House of Cards"), and Wallace Shawn's over use of the word "inconceivable".
The question that it boils down to is: is "The Princess Bride" a success? Well it's loved by thousands and goes on re-showings often, it has its own following, and many reference it as "their favorite movie". Although all major critics omit it from their "best movies" list, the film lands in the hearts of fans—what greater success is that?
Well then, it comes down to a better question: is "The Princess Bride" a good movie? Not getting into what constitutes as a "good" movie, the film has a lot of light-hearted laughs. It's an adventure, it's wacky, and it's full of soul. When scenes get exciting and revenge is portrayed as very attractive (later countered by a single line) or a simple phrase is repeated and the entire meaning is changed; yes, there is greatness in the film.
Perhaps it's not Reiner's finest film, or his funniest; but the movie does remain incredibly original—half Monty Python-half SNL—and very watchable.
Having seen the film quite a few times over the years, the meaning has changed for me. As a child, I empathized with the boy—now I can see through the grandfather's eyes.
Lovable and loving.

Score: ★★★½

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