March 15, 2012
The Princess Bride (1987)
Grade: 51/100

Director: Rob Reiner
Stars: Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin

What it's about. Adorable pre-adolescent Fred Savage (shortly prior to his "Wonder Years" fame) is sick and bedridden, so kindly grandfather Peter Falk shows up to read him an adventure book. It is a Middle Ages tale set in Europe. Hottie blonde Robin Wright, the future wife of Sean Penn, is kidnapped by familiar character actor Wallace Shawn, a short man with an annoying voice. His two henchmen are pro wrestler Andre the Giant and excitable fencer Mandy Patinkin.

Somehow, Wright's former love-slave, Cary Elwes, is aware of Wright's peril and comes to her rescue, proving his devotion and heroism by overcoming many obstacles. With Shawn thankfully disposed of, the film is only a third done, since the real villain is actually Chris Sarandon, an evil prince who wants to marry and/or murder Wright as an excuse to invade a neighboring province. Sarandon's friend and fellow bad guy is Christopher Guest, a sadist who relishes the opportunity to capture and torture Elwes.

In small supporting roles we have Peter Cook as a priest unable to pronounce the letter 'R'; the allegedly funny Billy Crystal as a Merlin-type sorcerer; and Carol Kane as his shrewish wife.

How others will see it. The Princess Bride was a modest box office success and received generally favorable reviews. It became hugely popular following its video release. Today, it has a whopping 150K user ratings at, where it is so highly regarded that it is ranked within that website's Top 250. There is a slight drop in ratings, however, between women aged 30-44, who award it an 8.6, and women over 45, who give it "only" a 7.4.

How I felt about it. There is not one frame of this movie that I want to see again. Except, possibly, when a giant rat is gnawing on Elwes' limbs. I was cheering for the giant rat.

The Princess Bride provides proof that there is little if any link between entertainment and quality. I hate this movie, but I grant that it is above average. Not good, mind you, just above average.

The easiest stone to cast at it is Peter Cook's character. Why would the Prince select a priest for the wedding with such a preposterous speech impediment? But the real problem is Rob Reiner's cutesy direction. Is it really so hilarious when Elwes is tortured on the rack? Twice? How does Elwes know that Buttercup (I hate that name) has been kidnapped? Why does he leave her (during his "farm boy" days) in the first place, just when he is finally about to reach third base with her? Would he really consume a poison over a period of time to develop an immunity just in case he encounters a man on a cliff with two wine goblets? Wouldn't it be easier to simply to run his sword through him?

Finally, why is Robin Wright so passive? Oh, she's rude to everyone around her, that's for sure, but she only tries to escape once, when she jumps into the sea and is attacked by eels. Otherwise, she is led around like a child by Andre, Sarandon, and Elwes. And she makes it through the Fire Swamp looking like she's ready for her royal wedding.

Many, many people, especially women, adore this movie. Perhaps they like the notion that The Perfect Man will overcome all odds, at great effort, to rescue The Perfect Woman. Or they think that the character actors are amusing, even the marital bickering between Billy Crystal and Carol Kane, each of whom wears enough make-up to cover a pizza.

But funny animal videos watched over the internet are charming too, and no one thinks they are great movies. Especially when the Prince is punished for his crimes by getting tied up. Within an hour, he'll be untied, and within a year, he will become undisputed ruler of his kingdom.