The Princess Bride (1987)
Directed by Rob Reiner
In an interview with New York Magazine, Mandy Patinkin (terrorist Saul Berenger on Showtime’s “Homeland”) says that his most famous line, “Hello. I am Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die,” is quoted back to him at least once a day. What better testament to the long-lasting charm and intelligence of “The Princess Bride” than that? It’s a classic, and thanks to a 25th Anniversary Blu-ray re-release I don’t see it being forgotten anytime soon.
When the love of his life (Robin Wright in her first leading role) is chosen to be the evil Prince’s bride, Westley (Cary Elwes) will not stop until he has saved her. Unfortunately, he’ll need more than his boyish charm to defeat all the Prince’s men. That’s where the hopeless, helpless Inigo Montoya (Patinkin) and Fezzik (André the Giant, a huge personality with an enormous heart) come in. Inigo has additional plans to avenge his father’s death, and Fezzik…well, Fezzik just wants to help however he can. “The Princess Bride” is also framed with a unique (and, frankly, adorable) narration that brings the story to 1987, where a grandfather (Peter Falk, awesome) tells this fantastical tale to his sick grandson (Fred Savage).
Start with the beautiful music by Mark Knopfler. How else can such a charming picture and memorable fairy tale begin than with the soft, tender ballad to romance? It sets the backdrop for the sweetest, most sincere movie I’ve seen in a while. Move on to the poignant script, adapted from William Golman’s 1973 novel by Goldman himself (who, I should note, won Academy Awards in 1969 and 1976 for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “All the President’s Men,” respectively). It’s witty, honest, and full of heart. It’s boldly original, unlike anything I’ve heard before or since. It’s endlessly relevant, a story of love and revenge, violence and heroism. It’s original, yet oddly familiar. Director Rob Reiner had trouble marketing it in 1987 (part of the reason it didn’t find popularity until it was released on VHS) because it was a love story, a fantasy adventure, and a comedy all at the same time. It demands to be seen and heard, over and over and over again.
On to the performances. Cary Elwes is brilliant! Delightfully gallant and charming, hilarious and romantic, filled to the brim with wit. Mandy Patinkin, a native Chicagoan, had me fooled as a spot-on Middle Ages Spaniard with his performance. He’s also, somewhat endlessly, quotable. André the Giant lived only six years beyond “The Princess Bride,” and his performance marks his only major movie role. He was perhaps the most enjoyable to watch and hear. Chris Sarandon and Christopher Guest also star, as the evil Prince Humperdinck and his assistant Count Rugen. Sarandon is devilishly good as the sarcastic Prince, and Guest gives new meaning to right-hand man.
“The Princess Bride” is a timeless gem, the perfect film for the whole family. Anything less than pure enjoyment is simply inconceivable.