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THE PRINCESS BRIDE

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sometimes a zany premise just works and this one comes together on all levels, and looks even better now than it did 33 years ago — and it looked pretty good back then. If you’ve never seen it on the big screen a trip to Ogden might be worth the drive; it’s showing at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 12, in Ogden's Egyptian Theater. My review was published in the Deseret News on Oct. 9, 1987.

William Goldman’s popular novel “The Princess Bride” has at last come to the screen, adapted by Goldman himself. And why not? Goldman has two Oscars on his mantle already (for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “All the President’s Men”), and he’s given us “Marathon Man,” “Harper” and many others in the past.

And Rob Reiner, whose “Stand By Me” and “The Sure Thing” proved movies about kids don’t have to be stupid, has directed with great affection for the material and a wonderful sense of comedy.

On the surface these two men may seem like odd collaborators for this venture, considering it is very much a movie quite unlike anything either has done before. But consider this: Goldman’s “Princess Bride” is to “Robin Hood” what “Butch Cassidy” was to “The Searchers.” He has somehow managed to affect both an homage to the genre and a spoof of same.

     

Fred Savage, left, Peter Falk, 'The Princess Bride' (1987)

You may recall that “Butch Cassidy” was a similar accomplishment. His western managed to really be a western in every best sense of that word, yet he had great fun spoofing cowboy conventions. And “The Princess Bride” is very much a fairy tale/adventure that would be great fun on its own but with an added dimension of hilarious comedy.

Reiner’s first was “This Is Spinal Tap!,” both a satire of rock documentaries and at the same time a very real-looking documentary-style homage to rock music and musicians.

This was indeed the perfect match.

“The Princess Bride” also manages to correctly capture Goldman’s story-within-a-story motif. As the film begins, a modern-day young boy (Fred Savage) is sick in bed. When his mother enters his room he switches off his video games but he soon wishes she’d left them on. Grandpa (Peter Falk) comes in and announces he would like to read the boy a fairy tale.

The lad’s reluctance gradually lets down, however, as he interrupts his grandfather, at first complaining that this sounds like “a kissing book,” but eventually because he can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen next.

Meanwhile, the story Grandpa is reading unfolds before us as we meet Buttercup (Robin Wright) and her true love Westley (Cary Elwes).

     

Westley goes off to find his fortune, vowing to return to Buttercup, but word eventually comes back that he has been killed by a pirate. So Buttercup allows herself to be betrothed to the kingdom’s evil prince (Chris Sarandon), who plans to kill her. Then. …

Come to think of it, I don’t want to give too much away — so suffice to say there are kidnappings, giants, magicians, monsters and all sorts of other wonderfully funny and scary things going on here — including the most hilarious fencing match (between Patinkin and Elwes) since Danny Kaye squared off against Basil Rathbone in “The Court Jester” — adding up to completely enchanting entertainment for all ages.

Very young children will doubtless be frightened by the sea serpents and giant rats but for the most part this is one of those rare films that will delight every age group.

“The Princess Bride” isn’t perfect. There are technical glitches, such as edited camera shots that don’t quite match and cardboard mountains and trees that look very much like cardboard mountains and trees — but for me that just added to the zany sense of fun. And it could be argued that Billy Crystal, under tons of makeup, doing a Mel Brooks-style “2000-Year-Old-Man” voice as an aged sorcerer, is out of place — but he’s so funny you won’t care.

Both Goldman and Reiner deserve applause for their accomplishment, and the wonderful cast (did I mention Wallace Shawn, Christopher Guest, Carol Kane, Peter Cook and Andre the Giant) is obviously relishing every moment.

This is in some ways a non-vulgar, Americanized version of how Monty Python might do a fairy tale. And it is great fun from start to finish.

“The Princess Bride” is rated PG for violence (there is some blood, several deaths and a couple of torture scenes) and two profanities (one spoken by the young boy in bed, one by Patinkin).