It is a bit strange that this charming movie had evaded me for years, or rather that I didn’t try and look for it. Let’s face it, though many people love this movie, more people do not even know it exists – or they think that it is The Princess Diaries.
That’s pretty sad when you consider how pure and lovely this movie is.
There are those movies that you watch and cry, and remember as emotional rollercoaster rides. On the other hand, there are movies that you end up loving, for no apparent reason – and I think that The Princess Bride is one such movie.
Now, just because I’m a girl, it doesn’t mean that the very title of the movie attracted me to this film. I’d heard that Mark Knopfler had composed the music for this and everyone on soundtrack forums seemed to be looking for the music. That is what got me interested in the movie and I was so glad to finally get hold of it.
When you’re looking forward to a fantasy movie about a princess and a prince-like character (if not a real prince), the first shot of a boy playing a baseball video game may not really live up to your expectations. But you really must get past that to really see what the film is about.
The film starts off with Fred Savage (yes, the kid from Wonder Years) playing a video game when his mother comes and tells him that his grandfather has come to meet him. Savage is not at all interested to meet his enthusiastic and kindly grandfather, but agrees to. Peter Falk, who is the grandfather, takes out a book called The Princess Bride, saying that his father used to read it to him when he was a child.
Savage is put off by the name of the book, but agrees to keep listening (saying that he will ‘try and stay awake’) after being told that the book at least has some action elements such as swordfights, villains, giants and the like.
But it begins with a girl called Buttercup (Robin Wright in her first major film role) who orders around a farm boy (Cary Elwes). However, Westley, the farm boy, never protests, but simply says “as you wish”. One day she discovers that what he actually means by those words is that he loves her. She then realises that she also loves him truly too.
However, their love is cut short when Westley has to leave and soon after his departure, Buttercup learns of his murder at sea by the Dread Pirate Roberts. She says she will never love again, but fate has something different in store for her.
She is chosen by Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) to be his bride (without her consent), and though she says she cannot love him, he says she will grow to love him with time.
What follows this little seemingly-doomed story of love is the best part, filled with magic and wonder. I will not reveal anything more as it might ruin the story for those who do not already know it. I will just say that it is about time to go and get this as soon as you possibly can.
Where to start talking about the film? I really love it – it’s brilliant – and why I love it is something I can’t really put my finger on.
For one, the story is marvellous and heartwarming. The characters grow on you – you begin to share their experiences, you wish some characters would win and some wouldn’t. Even the cameos (yes, Billy Crystal is here too) are really funny.
There are a couple of laugh-out-loud moments and you can’t help loving the protagonists. Robin Wright is brilliant as Buttercup and she does a good job with the British accent. Cary Elwes’ Westley is completely lovable and you can’t help smiling every time he appears on screen. His performance is praiseworthy – his insults, though meant to be completely hurtful, are spoken like they are praises (and you’ll notice this especially towards the end of the movie). I have no doubt that Elwes have been quite the heartthrob at that time. His swordfight with Mandy Patinkin is one of the highlights that you have to watch out for in this movie.
Chris Sarandon’s Humperdinck is so irritating that you want to punch him on the face every time he speaks – but that’s because the acting is superb. Mandy Patinkin (as Inigo Montoya), Wallace Shawn (as Vizzini) and Andre the Giant (as Fezzik) are absolutely brilliant as a band of three mismatched musketeers. Fred Savage and Peter Falk make an amazing grandson-grandfather pair. All the supporting characters (I will not mention them as there are so many) are perfectly cast, making this a wonder to watch.
When you notice the ‘look’ of this film, it may not live up to your expectations after watching gorgeous special effects in films like LOTR (all three) and the Harry Potter series, but in spite of being a movie with a considerably lower budget, there is nothing disappointing about the way it has been made. Yes, the Shrieking Eels and the Rodents of Unusual Size do not look completely believable, but what the heck? Those things don’t exist anyway. So that is an aspect you can easily overlook. Apart from that, the cinematography is brilliant and you are treated to a lovely view of the countryside, and you also get to admire the costumes and set pieces. I love all of Westley’s costumes in this film, as well as Buttercup’s, and the well-shot scenes make these more of a treat to watch.
Music is a strong point in this film. Yes, it is mighty obvious that the strumming of a guitar makes up most of the film score, and if you ask me, it isn’t really time-appropriate either, but it strangely works. No doubt that Mark Knopfler did a brilliant job composing for this film. My favourite track is “I Will Never Love Again”, which is played a number of times throughout the movie, including the scene when Buttercup hears of Westley’s death.
Rob Reiner’s direction is – in a word ‘awesome’ – considering the other movies he has to his credit. By choosing to do something as different as The Princess Bride, he really shows his versatility as a filmmaker.
I have never read the book by William Goldman, but taking into account that he did the screenplay for the movie, I have no doubt that the film is close to its source material. And that is quite a relief.
To end this rant, I would just say that one should seriously give this movie a go. The dialogue is excellent, never boring or weak, and complements the plot line completely. And no, it isn’t really a girly movie – there’s something in it for guys too.
For the first few minutes you might think that this film is not your cup of tea, but get past that and you’ll appreciate it, or maybe even love it. The film makes you believe in the goodness of mankind (I’m not exactly sure how it does that, but it leaves you with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside), and it also makes you realise the power of love and friendship. Go ahead, give it a try. Can’t hurt.