A Long Long Time Ago
In many ways I can see what director Rob Reiner was trying to do with "The Princess Bride", he wants it to be a movie which draws on elements of swashbuckling and fairytale but then playing them more for laughs than pure excitement. You could say it borders on being a pastiche of those swashbuckling and fairytale movies which came many years before and more often or not it works. There are those elements of a fairytale combined with a swashbuckling adventure through a land full of quirky characters and dangerous swamps whilst all the time a stream of humour meanders its way through it whilst the actors play it dead pan. But somehow "The Princess Bride" didn't wow me like it has done with so many others who absolutely adore the movie. I enjoyed it, I laughed a few times but not once did it draw me into an exciting, romantic adventure.
When his Grandson (Fred Savage) isn't feeling too well, a Grandfather (Peter Falk) decides to read him a story, a story which his father read to him and that he read his son. The tale is of Buttercup (Robin Wright - A Christmas Carol) and Westley (Cary Elwes - Another Country) who fall in love but when Westley goes away to make his fortune doesn't return and Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) decides to take Buttercup as his bride. With the wedding edging ever nearer, Buttercup is kidnapped by some bad guys only for Westley to suddenly return to try and save the love of his life. But with the Prince wanting Buttercup it is not just some villainous bad guys that Westley will have to fight to win back his one true love.
I doubt for one second that "The Princess Bride" was the first movie to use the idea of a grandparent reading a story to a grandchild as a lead in to the actual story but Reiner uses this brilliantly as the interjections from the Grandson and the banter between Grandfather and Grandson provide for some of the movies more funnier moments. Listening to the grandson object when ever there is kissing is simply fun as are his moans when it seems like the story he is being told isn't turning out like he expected. But this element is just a small part of "The Princess Bride" and is really there only as a clever way of introducing this fairytale story.
So the actual storyline that of Westley and Buttercup's enduring love for each other, the swashbuckling adventure through dangerous woods and swamps, monsters and villainous princes as well as wizards, well it serves a purpose. Maybe that is a bit cruel as for those who love fairytale stories will most definitely enjoy this side of "The Princess Bride" getting drawn into the fantasy world full of quirky characters. In fact the quirky characters side of it is quite entertaining and the imaginative elements of danger are also quite clever. But for me I just didn't find myself being drawn into this tale of a swashbuckling hero fighting for the love of his life.
But what did work for me is the almost spoof element as the comedy flows freely through every scene whilst everyone plays it dead straight. The humour often borders on the daft, comedy drawn out from the characters actually being caricatures but it works. And there is some amusing dialogue especially later on as a heavily made up Billy Crystal gets a few scenes, some of the best in the entire movie. Not all the comedy works and whilst it never feels like gags are being thrown at us for no reason some of the jokes are not as clever as the writers think.
As for the acting well entertaining and solid is the best way to describe pretty much every performance. Peter Falk and a young Fred Savage are entertaining as Grandfather and Grandson whilst Cary Elwes as Westley and Robin Wright as Buttercup make for a handsome pairing. But some of the better performances come from the supporting characters such as the already mentioned Billy Crystal and Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya is just as good making much of the comedy work better than it probably should have.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "The Princess Bride" is a very well made movie, an amusing one at that, it didn't wow me as much as I expected. I can understand how the whole fairytale, swashbuckling adventure all put together with comedy has won over a legion of fans but for me the whole storyline just failed to draw me in leaving the humour to keep my attention which for the most it did.