The Princess Bride: Movie Review

pb2The Princess Bride is a 1987 movie directed by Rob Reiner (the same of Stand By Me, 1986, and Misery, 1990). The protagonists of this romantic adventure with a fantasy flavor are Cary Elwes (he would also be Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood in 1993) and the beautiful Robin Wright accompanied by an exceptional cast that includes André the Giant, Peter Falk and Mandy Patinkin cast in the role of his life. This movie (which was also successful at the box office) is another one of those must-see cult films of the three-year period 1985/87 in which memorable adventure films were released such as, for example, The Goonies by Richard Donner and Young Sherlock Holmes (Pyramid of fear) by Barry Levinson.

The plot of The Princess Bride is the following: granpa Peter Falk reads a fairy tale to little Fred Savage in bed with fever, the fairy tale of the princess bride. Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright) is in love with her servant Westley (Cary Elwes) who, however, is sadly killed by the evil pirate Roberts. Then, she’s kidnapped by three criminals: the Sicilian Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), the giant Fezzik (André the Giant), and the swordsman Iñigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin). While they are taking her away, they realize that they are being followed by someone who then turns out to be precisely the fearsome pirate who one by one defies the three criminals and gets to Buttercup

Let me stop here in order to avoid spoilers for those who haven’t seen this masterpiece that, needless to say, constitutes an unforgivable cinematic sin! The film is not only a splendid fantasy adventure (although set in a world that mentions Sicilians and Australia, among other things), but also one of the better romantic comedies in the history of modern cinema. There are so many unforgettable scenes and so many memorable dialogues that it’s difficult to list them all…

There are references to this film in the most unthinkable places. An example is the indie videogame Cthulhu Saves the World where one of the enemies is a swordsman looking for a man with six fingers in one hand… that’s Montoya! And how to forget his catchphrase “My name is Iñigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!“! The character of Montoya is really amazing with his decade-long quest for revenge, and his great sense of honor and friendship. More in general, the quality of the characters is another winning elements of the film. All are well written and well characterized and, for the most part, they evolve with the story, in some cases even changing role from enemies to allies and friends of the two protagonists, as it should be in a film about love and friendship!

The quality of the script is accompanied by an exceptional staging and a talented cast with a chemistry between the various actors that is truly formidable. Regarding the staging, the three minutes-long sword fight between Roberts and Montoya is enough to demonstrate how much the movie is worth watching. In fact, that scene was prepared for months with the help of fencing experts who had previously worked with Erroll Flynn as well as in films like Star Wars and the first Indiana Jones! But everything is well-made in this film: the sets, costumes, the soundtrack (by Mark Knopfler, apparently a big fan of the fake documentary filmed by Reiner some years before entitled This Is Spinal Tap)…

I understand that I’m not offering any constructive criticism, but this time I am at a loss: I have nothing to criticize about The Princess Bride! The dialogues are brilliant, there is an incredibly sense of humor from beginning to end, and a great deal of attention has been paid to every little detail. Did I mention that there is also a semi-unrecognizable Billy Crystal? The following year he would work again with Rob Reiner in the excellent romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally!

Like two other films of the period of which I wrote here on the blog recently (Young Sherlock Holmes and Stand By Me), here too there is a narrator, or rather two, since not only Peter Falk tells the story but sometimes he’s interrupted by little Fred Savage. Despite my aversion to the omniscient storytellers in movies, here it works great and makes the movie even funnier!

In short, this is a masterpiece, a romantic and comic fantasy adventure that works on all fronts in a unique fusion of genres that has no equal in the history of cinema. It never tires me, even though I have seen it at least once a year for the past twenty-five years. This means at least two things: 1) I’m old; 2) I recommend watching The Princess Bride! Ciao!

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