The Princess Bride is one of the most perfect films around, not in any grand or profound way, but in its timeless, endlessly amusing creation of a modern fairy tale, based off the book by William Goldman, who also wrote the screenplay. I know I’m not alone in saying that this is a film I could watch any day of the week, while quoting much of the ingenious dialogue. It never ceases to entertain, and I think everyone involved in its production realized what a special film they produced.
The cast is a treasure trove of comedic talent, from Wallace Shawn as disdainful Vizzini to Andre the Giant as strong but gentle “land mass” Fezzik to Billy Crystal’s hilarious cameo as Miracle Max, who proves that chocolate does indeed have life-giving properties. Cary Elwes as Westley and Robin Wright as Buttercup (one of her first roles) are ideal starry-eyed lovers, the one gallant and dashingly British and the other beautiful, though rather helpless. The film is well-recognized for its abundance of potent quotables, and every character gets a memorable line, often several. Who can forget Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya spouting his rehearsed threat to his father’s killer, or Wallace Shawn’s “Inconceivable,” said as only he can? Some droll moments are also given to the villains, Chris Sarandon as self-assured Prince Humperdinck (I wonder if his first name is Engelbert) and Christopher Guest as soft-spoken sadist Count Rugen. Even small roles like Mel Smith as the Albino and Peter Cook as the Impressive Clergyman get some Monte Python-style humor from their unexpected voices.
Though The Princess Bride parodies typical fairy tale tropes, it embraces them as well, like a more sincere version of a Mel Brooks comedy. Consider when Vizzini calls out “Behold, the Cliffs of Insanity!” followed by some overly dramatic music, yet the cliffs themselves do play a role in the tale, and their pretentious name doesn’t preclude real danger. The film’s depicted framework of a bedtime story, read by Peter Falk, lends the film a detached fascination, so that the audience can laugh while also becoming invested in the characters’ struggles. Quite a lot of work went into the filming as well, particularly the expert duel between Elwes and Patinkin, who did all but the somersaults themselves. Moments of whimsy alternate with moments of genuine passion to create a family film for all ages (though a single profanity from Fred Savage as the boy was unnecessary). The Oscar-nominated song “Storybook Love,” sung by Willy DeVille, is also worthy of a place in my End Credits Song Hall of Fame.
As I said, I can watch this film forever, but it was only recently that my attention was brought to a small but important detail. The Princess Bride is a Christmas movie! I didn’t believe it at first, but at the very beginning, there are lights and snow outside and a small lighted tree out in the hall, as well as a Santa hanging behind Peter Falk the whole time. I always assumed the book was a get-well-soon gift, but it’s a Christmas present. Now we all have one more reason to watch it, as if we needed another excuse. It’s got everything a good fairy tale needs and a great deal more besides.Best lines (I wish I could just say the whole movie): (Vizzini, when Westley doesn’t fall from the Cliffs) “He didn’t fall? Inconceivable!” (Inigo) “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” (Inigo Montoya) “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” (Miracle Max, when he lifts and drops Westley’s lifeless arm) “I’ve seen worse.” (Westley, after knocking out the giant Fezzik) “I do not envy you the headache you will have when you awake. But for now, rest well and dream of large women.” (Westley, after returning from almost-death) “Who are you? Are we enemies? Why am I on this wall? Where is Buttercup?” (Inigo) “Let me explain. [pauses] No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” (Westley and the Grandfather) “As you wish.” Rank: 60 out of 60
© 2015 S. G. Liput
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