I love fairy tales! Always have, probably always will.
In 1987, Rob Reiner directed a movie of a real fairy tale—not “like a fairy tale” or “modern version of a fairy tale.” The Princess Bride is a story with a giant (a real giant, no less) a lovely princess, an evil prince, a kindly king and queen, a quirky wizard, and a hero pirate. There are scary creatures, villains with poison and torture devices. The action includes wrestling, fencing, and outwitting the fire swamp. The actors wear velvet costumes and everything.
It’s a story about true love. The hero dies at the beginning of the story, and then again later on, but everything works out in the end. (This is NOT a spoiler.) If you haven’t seen this movie, rent it, buy it, SEE it right away.
Those who don’t know anything about it often hear the title and mistake it for a chick flick. Maybe my description makes it sound a bit chick-y, too. It’s not. It is a great date movie. It’s a magical family film. It’s a fun movie to watch with friends. Everyone I know that has seen it loves it—many count it as one of their Top Ten Favorites of All Time.
What makes it so special? I have a theory.
The movie begins (present day, 1987) with a little boy (Fred Savage), sick in bed, who gets a visit from his loveable Grandpa (Peter Falk). Grandpa wants to cheer him up by reading him a story—a book that his own father read to him, and that he read to the little boy’s father. Once the grandfather explains that it’s an adventure story, the boy allows him to read. The story unfolds through the grandpa’s words and the boy’s imagination.
The Princess Bride is a romantic story, but any syrupy mushiness is curtailed by the little boy’s interruptions. “Is this a kissing book?”
The movie has frightening beasts, but the audience suffers no ill, because of the grandpa’s interruptions. “She doesn’t get eaten by the eels at this time.”
The plot includes a quest for revenge, but in the noblest sense. The characters fully embody their archetypal traits. The villains are completely evil, no matter how charming they may sound. The wizard, Miracle Max, and his wife, Valerie (Billy Crystal and Carol Kane), provide the team of heroes with an unlikely arsenal for their castle assault.
Clever one-liners pepper the dialog with humor and wit. “Don’t pester him. He’s been mostly-dead all day.” I find myself quoting this film constantly, in all sorts of situations. The story plays perfectly for every audience, because it develops through a child’s eyes. It personifies the gift of imagination that dwells within us all.
Have you seen this movie? Do you have a favorite quote? I want to hear it!
That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema! Thanks for reading!