With its tongue firmly in cheek, Rob Reiner's delightful revisionist fairy tale The Princess Bride simultaneously challenges and reaffirms the conventions of happily-ever-after stories. Once upon a time, as this particular yarn goes, there was a beautiful princess named Buttercup (Robin Wright) who was being held against her will by the evil Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) and his dastardly henchmen. Luckily, her childhood sweetheart, now the Dread Pirate Roberts (Cary Elwes), and his newfound friend, the dashing swordsman Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), come to the fair maiden's rescue. In chronicling their adventures, director Reiner and screenwriter William Goldman tinker playfully with time-honored plot devices and counterbalance swashbuckling action with plenty of laughs. Broad character turns by Billy Crystal, Peter Falk, Carol Kane, and André the Giant give the film a loosey-goosey feel, and all the actors play it to the hilt throughout. Although the twinkles in their eyes could have made this a cloying affair, Reiner finds a nice balance, never making it feel as if they're trying too hard to have fun.
Both a tribute to and revision of fairy tales past, The Princess Bride manages to combine subtle, acerbic humor with a classic understanding of what makes the elements of fantasy so appealing to children. Director Rob Reiner took a chance on William Goldman's novel of the same name; though the central plot is unarguably Westley (Cary Elwes) and Buttercup's (Robin Wright) journey to happily-ever-after, a variety of subplots and personal quests make for the daunting prospect of producing a film that very well might have too much going on. A surprisingly gentle performance from late wrestling icon Andre the Giant, along with an excellent supporting team including Billy Crystal, Wallace Shawn, and Mandy Patinkin, however, not only make the intermingling of plots seem perfectly natural, but express a sense of camraderie so realistic that one hardly notices the subject at hand is as likely to be the pitfalls of life in the revenge business as it is the tedious process of bringing one back from the dead. Patinkin in particular is compelling as Inigo, a Spanish swordsman on an obsessive quest to avenge his father's murder, while Wright plays the title role of with all of the angst, priss, and unbending faith in true love expected from a princess. Elwes' Westley, however, is far cry from the traditional knight in shining armor--clothed in all back and well-versed in the pirating industry, Wesley is a verifiable fairy-tale bad-boy--and like the film itself, somehow, it just works.
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