THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG

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Directed by: Rob Reiner

Written by: William Goldman

(based on the novel THE PRINCESS BRIDE by William Goldman)

Starring: Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon, Mandy Patinkin, Christopher Guest, Andre the Giant, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, Peter Falk & Fred Savage

In the realm of cult movies, THE PRINCESS BRIDE is probably one of the most well-known and highly regarded. In the realm of fairy tales, the film is probably the most meta and comedic out there. PRINCESS BRIDE is a story that should please pretty much everyone in the audience. Though some younger male viewers might be scared off by the feminine sounding title, they’ll find plenty of adventure and laughs to be had. Adults expecting heartfelt romance will also find a love story far more fleshed out than early Disney Princess flicks. With a sense of humor and clever attitude, PRINCESS BRIDE may not be a masterpiece (I’ll discuss my minor gripe with the film later on)…but it’s close to perfection nonetheless.

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A grandfather reads a book to his sick grandson. Thus we’re given an excuse for an old man narrating our actual plot/fairy tale. The main story follows Buttercup and Westley. The two fall head-over-heels in love with each other on a countryside farm, but Westley doesn’t exactly have the funds for marriage…so he travels out to sea to make a fortune and winds up presumed dead. Years later, Buttercup has gone from poor peasant girl to Prince Humperdinck’s fiancé. It’s a loveless union, because part of her died the day that Westley was killed. When Buttercup is kidnapped by a trio of criminals (a sword-wielding Spaniard, a fearsome giant, and a spit-filled strategist), a masked man comes to her rescue. Three guesses who the masked man is and true love is rekindled…though it faces opposition from the evil Humperdinck, his six-fingered torture-happy assistant, and rodents of unusual size.

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The colorful characters populating THE PRINCESS BRIDE turn what might have been a typical fairy tale into something unique. Supposedly villainous characters are fleshed out into people worth rooting for and our romantic leads are complex in their own ways (while also deeply in love with each other). These qualities make for a fantasy-romance unlike any that you’ve ever seen before. A narrative that jumps through multiple characters doesn’t necessarily become distracting in the fairy tale setting because they’re all so entertaining to watch. Each of their arcs (my personal favorite is the Spaniard’s quest for revenge against a six-fingered man) is interesting for a different reason. However, I find the structuring story to be a tad forced. I’m not talking about anything involving the fairy tale or the romance, but rather the grandfather reading to his grandson. The movie doesn’t just start and end with these segments, but keeps cutting back to them for comedic effect…and that doesn’t necessarily work well. Instead, it distracts from the main story at hand: the comedic fairy-tale romance. The segments interrupting the fairy tale don’t detract too much from the film overall, but remain annoying. I sort of wish that a fairy tale character were narrating the story as opposed to a grandfather reading to his grandson.

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The biggest strength of THE PRINCESS BRIDE is definitely its sense of humor. This movie never takes itself too seriously. There are laughs to be had practically ever minute. This is not mention that the dialogue is endlessly quotable. The comedic timing and meta-sensibilities come across in lines from the characters. These could be from a giant recognizing that throwing a rock at his opponent’s head isn’t very sportsmanlike or a wizard coating his miracle pills in chocolate to make them go down easier. These little touches create big laughs. The film is a self-aware fairy tale, but done in a way that isn’t lampooning the material…but rather celebrating it with uniquely comedic sensibilities.

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THE PRINCESS BRIDE is a movie that I really can’t imagine anyone hating. This is a crowd-pleasing, endlessly quotable, and laugh-filled fairy tale romance packed with adventure. The characters are all memorable as are some of the biggest laughs that the movie has to offer (the introduction to the Pit of Despair gets me every time). Well-constructed and entertaining beyond belief, even if it slightly suffers from narrative flaws, THE PRINCESS BRIDE is essential viewing.

Grade: A-

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