93. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: The Princess Bride

January 25, 2018

Director: Rob Reiner
Screenplay: William Goldman
Starring: Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, André the Giant, Robin Wright, Peter Falk, Billy Crystal
Runtime: 98 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 1988

 

★★★★★

 

Directed at the height of his game, Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride has aged remarkably well over the course of three decades. Appearing in the 80’s at a time of fantasy resurgence and box-office failure, this spins a bizarre legend of its own. Its once unique brand of self-referential jesting and postmodern dissection feels right at home amongst the 21st century’s great cinematic fairy tales.

 

William Goldman’s remarkably fleshed out screenplay and dialogue maintains the metatextual framing device of the original novel via a storybook being by a grandpa (Peter Falk) to his sick grandson (Fred Savage). At once a spectacularly bonkers fairy tale and a hilariously knowing deconstruction of the genre, the film romps along with a knowing logic of an apparently ageless story that adheres to viewers predisposed knowledge of narrative structures and function. Even the nature of set design is drawn attention to in a handful of excellent jibes at typical fantasy locations and creatures. The characters react to their own universe from the divinely smug position of those who are aware of their places and arcs within the story – the heroes assured at all times that everything will be well for them regardless of their predicament. This safety never weakens the story though and only adds to the lightness of the comedic fare and the audience’s pleasures at watching things progress with utter ease.

 

Every performance is pitched perfectly with anarchic ease; Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Christopher Guest and Chris Sarandon (but especially Mandy Patinkin) give benchmark performances in their careers. Other faces help along with way with expert comic filmmaking techniques to get the most out of any sequence that might otherwise be played straight.

 

There’s something to find in its pleasures for everyone, as the romance and comedy pair with its quaint adventure and miniaturist scope. Its deadpan characters erect unforgettable sequences in an endlessly quotable, lovable faux- fantasy.

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