Friday, May 08, 2009

461 - Play It Again #10 - The Princess Bride

A commenter here recently described a class of shotgun shooting liberals that still exist despite their exclusion from popular culture. I've got a hunch that Ryan Toppin would cherish such a classification, because he's the most proactively rugged liberal that I know personally, always up for blowing away deer or taking a fist to those who have it coming. But he's also one of the most enthusiastic gatherers of knowledge that I've had the pleasure of befriending, as well as one of the most honest and fun. That, and he was a pretty cool boss during my first year at the university newspaper. Ryan lives in Minneapolis with his fiancee, where he passes time until the wedding.

Ryan's entry is on "The Princess Bride," Rob Reiner's 1987 storybook fantasy.

When I think about movies I come back to watch again and again some prominent titles pop up. When first asked to write about one of them “Platoon” seemed a likely choice, along with “Pulp Fiction.” Both of those are great movies in their own right, but I decided to go in a slightly different direction.

“The Princess Bride,” directed by Rob Reiner, is a movie that has everything: romance, adventure, revenge themes, miracles. It doesn’t have any good gunfights, but if you watch it with an open heart I think you’ll be able to forgive it for that. All together it’s a cute story with a cast of stars before they were stars.

The movie begins with sick kid (a young Fred Savage) who’s grandfather (Peter Faulk) brings him a gift, a storybook that has been passed down from father to son for at least four generations. The grandfather spends the day reading to his grandson who, at the outset, is not very enthused and promises to “try to stay awake.”

The story centers onWesley (Carey Elwes) and Buttercup (Robin Wright Penn) who share “True Love,” which we are assured is very rare. They go through some hardships, up to and including death but remain steadfastly loyal to each other along the way. The leads are backed up by some other names you might recognize including Billy Crystal, Andre the Giant, and Mandy Patinkin.

Though the plot points could come from any story and the special effects are none too amazing, it’s easy to forgive for two reasons. The first is that the action is occasionally broken by interjections from the grandson (“You’re reading it wrong Grandpa.”), which bring us back to a kid’s bedroom in 1987. This serves to remind us that the action of the story is taking place in a 10-year-old’s imagination and we suddenly forgive the sailing ships for looking a little too much like miniatures in a mocked up bathtub.

The second is the strange form of cheesy humor in the story, which I find myself laughing at every single time. It takes a number of forms, from the annoyance of an evil mastermind with his henchmen’s game of rhyming to a clergyman with a speech impediment.

In the end everyone rides off into the sunset as befits a great storybook ending, by which time some of the bad guys have become good guys, the villain has had his schemes foiled, and the evilest character has died (one of only two deaths in the whole movie) by the hand of a man who spent 20 years seeking revenge for the murder of his father.

I think that this is one of the best family movies ever made in that it offers something for everyone and humor that’s funny no matter how old you are. It’s a great date movie, especially if you’ve both seen it in the past. If you haven’t seen it then go rent/buy it right now. If you have seen it then get it out and watch it again. - Ryan Toppin

1 comment:

Rob D said...

Excellent review and an excellent film. William Goldman's screenplay is quite possibly his best, although you might argue that All The Presidents Men was a better job because of its tougher subject matter. But this film is so well done, beautifully acted, wonderfully directed, and charming as can be. One of the all time greats. Fine selection.