|Two hands, ten fingers, one charmingly cleft chin.|
The Princess Bride is adapted from a book by William Goldman, and as you might expect when Spinal Tap's director films a work by Marathon Man's screenwriter, the film never verges on sentimental or cloying despite its title and premise. It's eminently quotable high adventure that knows when to stick to fairy-tale conventions and when to send them packing. Also, it's not in the least dated -- sometimes 80s fantasy betrays itself through haircuts and makeup (Labyrinth, Ladyhawke), but the mise en scene here is Germanic medieval goodness all the way, which makes it doubly funny when the characters break their mythic shackles to comment with modern cynicism on their circumstances ("never get involved in a land war in Asia", Vizzini warns Westley grimly). The very best thing about this movie is that every performance is a standout. There's not a weak link in the bunch. Even Billy Crystal's cameo -- he's a withered gnome with a New Yawker accent -- somehow works (with emphasis on the somehow).
I'm not so mired in nostalgia for The Princess Bride to ignore the fact that the film is decidedly uneven after Westley conquers Buttercup's captors. The half-hour showdown between pirate and brigands is such perfect movie-making that everything afterwards is a bit of a letdown. Still, the quality of the rest of the movie ranges from "excellent" to "pretty good", so I wouldn't call time spent watching it wasted.
The only other thing that irks me about The Princess Bride is its love story. Not because it's too sweet, which is a complaint I've heard. The opposite, in fact. When Westley shows up to rescue Buttercup, he's stolen the Dread Pirate Roberts' identity -- complete with Roberts' "leave no man alive" mission statement. That means that, for all intents and purposes, Westley returns to Buttercup a serial killer. This never bothers her or, apparently, anyone else. Westley is also just kind of a jerk to her: he continues to let her believe her beloved is dead much longer than he has to, insulting her fidelity long after she's demonstrated that her marriage to Humperdinck is a sham and she still loves her vanished fiance. I guess it's all meant to be a test of her loyalty or something, but it just comes off as dickish and kind of makes me wish Buttercup had gone off with Inigo Montoya instead.
Be that as it may, I give a 4/5 to The Princess Bride. The waters of 80s fantasy can be treacherous (killer eels, don't you know) but Reiner navigates them successfully, and his gorgeous film is still enjoyable today.
|Ladies, remember to moisturize.|