"The Princess Bride" Celebrates 30 Years This Week


1987 wasn’t a great year for movies, what with these 5 nominees in the running for Best Picture – The Last Emperor", "Broadcast News", "Fatal Attraction", "Hope and Glory", "Moonstruck". Not a bad bunch of films but none of which really stood the test of time, although I would still call "Broadcast News" a minor classic and far and away the best picture out of that bunch. However, what the Academy failed to do then, and are still guilty of doing now, was not nominate a fantasy movie that ultimately became a classic: Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride.

One can understand why Rob Reiner’s fairy tale was such an enigma when it first came out in the fall of 1987. Here was a film that was supposed to be primarily aimed at a younger audience but ended up pleasing all ages with its deadpan, Monty Python-esque humor and a bold, satirical narrative that never took itself too seriously. That is not to say that we don’t fully invest ourselves in its fairy-tale like storytelling and genuinely good-natured morality. In fact, one is touched by the love story deftly told by a grandfather to his ill grandson about a beautiful princess called buttercup who gets kidnapped and needs to be rescued by her brave, young fiancée Prince Humperdinck.

What works in Reiner’s tale is that every character is a delight to watch, there isn’t a dull one in the bunch. From Wallace Shawn’s Vizzini –“Inconceivable !”- to Andre The Giant’s gentle Fezzik all the way to Billy Crystal’s hilarious cameo as Miracle Max, an old, Jewish wizard that disapproves of his wife (played by Carol Kane) and refuses to help Humperdinck in his voyage to save Buttercup. But most of all, the true heart of the story is Mandy Patinkin’s Inigo Montoya a heroic swordsman with a secret –"Hello My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."It’s an undeniably powerful line that brings real, humane feeling to Reiner’s screenplay which packs a wallop on the viewer’s emotions.

It’s not easy making a children’s tale these days and allowing adults to be as enchanted by it as the kids. Pixar has made it a habit with its original tales and it is no surprise that their films seem to be influenced by Reiner's humor. There are also shades of Reiner’s film in some of the colorful, imaginative frames of “Shrek,” and its satirical edge.

“The Princess Bride” ran on an overdone, age-old concept but brought freshness to the edges. It is a cliché to say that a movie, from start to finish, was a magical, transcendent experience but that is truly what this movie was. The laughs come with a sting and the world that we enter is so rich and mesmerizing that it is hard to sometimes explain its surreal, dreamy impact.  The fact that this wasn’t nominated for Best Picture -Inconceivable!?- only makes it a better movie, it was a mistake not giving it its due in 1987 but it has stood the test of time and beyond.

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