With Fred Savage, Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin and Andre the Giant, how could you possibly go wrong? Smirks aside, The Princess Bride is one of those rare "family films" that doesn't make you want to gouge your eyes out.
Though the movie helped solidify Rob Reiner's career as a director (before North ruined it), the real credit goes to William Goldman's clever and eminently quotable script, which carefully walks the line between satire and sincerity. Adapting his own novel written for his daughters Goldman's fairy tale pokes fun at sword and sorcery epics even as it revels in their swashbuckling heroism and declarations of true love. Chock-full of witty repartee and over-the-top conceits, The Princess Bride has real thrills, real romance and a really good time.
Unfortunately, the film's postmodern mix of parody, adventure, and romance proved too difficult for 20th Century Fox to market and it disappointed at the box office. But like many overlooked gems (The Big Lebowski, anyone?) home audiences turned it into a cult hit.
Cary Elwes turns in the best performance of his career as farmboy-turned-masked hero Wesley, who seeks to rescue princess bride-to-be Buttercup (Robin Wright) from the brilliantly snake-like Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon). Aside from its corny framing device crusty 'ol granddad (Peter Falk) reads to his bedridden grandson (Savage) the film is blessed with a long list of memorable supporting characters. There's Wallace Shawn's irritating Vizzini, Christopher Guest's villainous six-fingered right-hand man, Mandy Patinkin's relentlessly vengeful Inigo Montoya, and Andre the Giant's lovable Fezzik. Even the cameo performances are inspired.
Whether it's scaling the Cliffs of Insanity, battling "rodents of unusual size," or trekking through the fire swamps, The Princess Bride boasts such sparkle and flair that serious-minded fantasies like The Chronicles Of Narnia come off as dull and clumsy. If you haven't seen it, go. If you have, it's as good as you remember.
Showing (a new 35 mm print) at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111) on Friday and Saturday, May 24 and May 25. Showtime is midnight. Princess Bride kicks off the theater's summer-long "Midnight Madness" series.
Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].