Director: Rob Reiner
Writer: William Goldman
Verdict: Great family fun
When I was a kid we watched The Princess Bride God knows how many times, yet it’s been so long since then that I felt nervous returning to it. I was also watching it with other people and if you don’t have the patience for it you might not be in on the joke in the first act of this delightfully post modern fairy tale that takes every opportunity it gets to satirise and poke fun at fantasy and fairy-tale cliches. This doesn’t mean necessarily that the fairy tale itself isn’t entertaining. I can say with pleasure though, that it is just as delightful, quirky, and witty as it was every other time I watched it as a child and everyone else seemed to be enjoying it also.
The narrative of The Princess Bride is hard to say immediately, taking after Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, it takes the opportunity of a fantasy tale being told to then comment on the genre of fantasy itself. A character credited just as ‘The Grandson’ is sick, and ‘The Grandfather’, affectionately played by Peter Falk, (Columbo, A Woman Under the Influence), reads him a book passed down through his family’s generation like Pulp Fiction‘s gold watch, just with less ass-hiding and Christopher Walken. It tales the tale of Buttercup, who after her dear Wesley, (played with a lot of wit and fun by Cary Elwes, best known otherwise for Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and, well, Saw), dies, is married off to Prince Humperdinck.
This film works on a fair few levels, if you’re a kid, you indentify with the figure of The Grandson, who is so perfectly written to encapsulate the young boy who pretends not to like ‘kissing stories’ but can’t help but be absorbed by a really good one, and that this is. A really good story with aspects to attract all audiences, that’s another level it works on as just a fantastic narrative, and then it works on a post-modern commentary in the same way that director Rob Reiner’s This Is Spinal Tap is a post-modern commentary on the rock-doc and cock-rock metal music in general. The sets do look a bit setish but in a way that’s part of the kitch charm this film holds, and who knows, with a film like this it might be on purpose.
Now those who read my Escape from New York review might recall me saying that it might not be excusable to look cheap and claim post-modernism, but there’s a difference between that and looking cheap on purpose. In the case of The Princess Bride it’s a case of whether you find that charming or irritating, and who knows, it might not even be a thing that the film’s doing.
The film is aided by a wonderfully fun cast that fill out an eclectic mix of entertaining and occasionally slightly anachronistic characters. The names include leading lady Robin Wright, (Forrest Gump, House of Cards), Chris Sarandon, (The Nightmare Before Christmas), Christopher Guest, (This Is Spinal Tap, A Few Good Men), Wallace Shawn, (Toy Story, Clueless), Mandy Pitinkin, (Homeland), Mel Smith, (Father Christmas, National Lampoon’s European Vacation), Carol Kane, (Dog Day Afternoon, Annie Hall), Billy Crystal, (Monsters, Inc., When Harry Met Sally…), and the late, great, Andre The Giant. Some of the characters only showing up for seconds at a time but doing their bit with gusto and verve.
This film is a delight for all the family, and if you haven’t seen it you had the wrong parents. I’m honestly really struggling to think of flaws, I’m sure it has them but the fact I didn’t notice them really speaks a testament to the film.