[Note: this is the fifth film in my 2016 Blind Spot series. For a list of the other well-known or well-respected films I’ve already watched or I’m going to be watching for the first time this year, see this post.]
I guess The Princess Bride needs little in the way of introduction, given that it’s another well-respected Rob Reiner film from the 1980s (though look, I’ll put this out there straight away, it’s not a patch on Stand By Me or This Is Spinal Tap). However, in case there are people reading who – like me until a week ago – have never actually seen the film, I ought to point out that it’s a post-modern fairy tale as well as a comedy, with William Goldman adapting his own book and surrounding a straightforward love story with all manner of memorable characters spouting funny lines or acting goofily. The most notable of these are Mandy Patinkin’s swashbuckling Inigo Montoya (whose name is, most definitely, Inigo Montoya) and Wallace Shawn’s inconceivably-clever Vizzini, a man who is trying to start a war between two cities, but there are also lots of celebrity cameos and the film’s at its best when these are rapidly stacking up in the second and third acts. In addition to the actors mentioned above there are brief but effective comic turns by Peter Cook, Christopher Guest, Mel Smith and Billy Crystal, though I actually enjoyed watching Cary Elwes as the Errol Flynn-style hero more than any of them. Elwes archly raises his eyebrows during The Princess Bride so many times no-one could ever accuse him of not knowing what kind of film he’s in, and he plays it just right.
Perhaps it hasn’t aged well, or perhaps I should have watched it in the late ’80s when it was released and I was younger, or perhaps I should have read the book, but whatever the reason is I just didn’t love it. (It’s always the way when fans are evangelical about something, and given the amount of people who have recommended the film to me over the years, a degree of disappointment was probably inevitable.) Still, it was witty enough and I welcomed the economical storytelling, which kept things simple and ensured the film didn’t outstay it’s welcome. As an old fan of The Wonder Years it was nice to see Fred Savage during the film’s framing device, in which Peter Falk’s grandad reads the book to his grandson, and as a current fan of House Of Cards it was enjoyable to catch Robin Wright’s debut. Though I really have to ask – at the risk of angering an internet that has ensured The Princess Bride has a 97% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes – isn’t her Princess Buttercup just a little … sappy and boring?
Directed by: Rob Reiner.
Written by: William Goldman. Based on The Princess Bride by William Goldman.
Starring: Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, André the Giant, Billy Crystal, Peter Falk, Fred Savage, Peter Cook.
Cinematography: Adrian Biddle.
Editing: Robert Leighton.
Music: Mark Knopfler.
Running Time: 98 minutes.