A better romantic comedy than Rob Reiner's 'The Princess Bride' (1987)? Inconceivable! Based upon the novel of the same name by William Goldman, Reiner's 'The Princess Bride' is a delightful, breezy, fun and genuinely touching film that deftly combines elements of fantasy, romance and comedy all without coming off as being overly sentimental or hokey.
The film opens with a kindly grandfather (Peter Falk) sitting down with his ill grandson (Fred Savage) and reading him a bedtime story entitled "The Princess Bride". The story (which is occasionally interrupted with commentary by the Grandson and Grandfather characters respectively) is a classic tale of love and adventure wherein the beautiful commoner Buttercup (Robin Wright), engaged to the odious Prince Humperdinck of Florin (Chris Sarandon), is kidnapped and held against her will in order to start a war with a neighboring kingdom of Guilder.
Her life hanging in the balance, Westley (Cary Elwes), her childhood beau, returns disguised as the Dread Pirate Roberts to save her from the murderous plot of Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) and his henchmen, the swordsman Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and the giant Fezzik (Andre the Giant). Using his wits and the help of Vizzini's henchmen, Westley leads an attack on Prince Humperdinck's castle after the Prince refuses to allow Buttercup's initial survival stop his plans at manufacturing a war with Guilder by murdering Buttercup on their wedding night.
Fewer romantic comedies have been acted and constructed as well as Reiner's light-hearted foray into fantasy and fairy tale. The imaginary world of Florin, full of its phantasmal beasts and citizens, truly feels fleshed out and real, while the characters inhabiting Reiner's story are all equally developed and unique.
Though Savage and Falk exist outside of the story proper and only serve as a "framing device" for the tale, the chemistry between the two actors is terrific, their back-and-forth commentary on the action and Falk's occasional requests for Savage's character to "shut up" so he continue with the story injecting a bit of humor into the film that adds to its appeal rather than detract from it.
The relationship between Elwes and Wright is equally enjoyable and believable. Though Elwes and Wright initially start out merely playing "stock characters" (i.e. the "swashbuckling hero" in Elwes' case and the "helpless maiden" in Wright's), as the film progresses, the two actors begin to flesh out their character's personalities and inject a bit more originality into their characters so that they rise above your typical, fantasy stereotypes and become fully realized individuals whose love for one another seems utterly real.
The supporting cast is equally terrific. Mandy Patinkin's performance as the revenge-hungry Inigo Montoya is a well-balanced portrayal of humor and pathos, while Andre the Giant's turn as the friendly brute Fezzik is equally entertaining, his turn as a friendly, if somewhat simple-minded giant proving to be a perfect complement to Patinkin's wiry, more intellectual swordsman.
But of course, a film is only as strong as its villains, and fortunately enough for audiences, Reiner's light-hearted tale manages to conjure up some pretty vile and frightening antagonists to impede on the love of Buttercup and Westly. Wallace Shawn is utterly hilarious as the pompous and weasel-like Vizzini, whose constant exclamations of "Inconceivable!" make for one of the film's most enduring jokes.
On the end of the villain spectrum we have Christopher Guest's turn as Count Tyrone Rugen, a brutal and vile henchman to Prince Humperdinck, and a performance that's far more darker and more frightening than Shawn's demented Vizzini. Lastly, Chris Sarandon's portrayal of the evil Prince Humperdinck is equally entertaining as his co-stars, his use of dry-wit and sarcasm breathing some life into the otherwise standard "evil Prince" character.
Though many scoff and grow nauseas at the prospect of sitting through a "romantic comedy" (a perfectly natural reaction given that most (but not all) romantic comedies are so full of 'sap' you could pour their dialogue over pancakes), it would be a ghastly mistake to do the same with Rob Reiner's 'The Princess Bride'. Though it is, on a fundamental level, a "romantic comedy", Reiner manages to produce a film that has actually heart behind it and actually chemistry between its principal actors. A fun film for all ages, it truly is -- to quote Vizzini -- "inconceivable" to find another movie with as much heart and laugh's as Reiner's.
Find the nearest Blockbuster near your home so you can rent this film almost immediately. Or, if you prefer that movies came to you instead, set up a Netflix account and start your ordering as soon as possible.