“The Princess Bride”-An Inconceivable Fairy Tale

Love is in the air, as we have reached one of my favourite holidays of all time- Valentine’s Day! And what better way to mark the occasion than to view a romantic movie? And if the latest “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie doesn’t quite cater to your idea of “romance”, then perhaps “The Princess Bride”, Rob Reiner’s 1987 adaptation of William Goldman’s novel of the same name, can be of some assistance. While some male members of the audience may be instantly turned off as soon as they hear the title, believing it to be a girly “kissing” story, it’s more about more than just “a princess bride”. It’s got elements that will keep young boys satisfied too, such as pirates, adventure and revenge!

We start off with a grandfather (Peter Falk) settling down to tell his sick young grandson (Fred Savage) a bedtime story. The tale he weaves tells of Westley (Cary Elwes), a lowly farmhand who works for the family of Buttercup (Robin Wright), whom he loves. When she realizes that she reciprocates  his feelings, he leaves in order to make his fortune so that they can get married. However, she hears that Westley’s ship has been attacked by by the fearsome Dread Pirate Roberts, with Westley being presumed dead. Resigning herself to the loss of her one true love, Buttercup doesn’t resist when vile Prince Humperdink (Chris Sarandon) chooses her as his intended bride, with the hidden agenda of murdering her in order to profit from her death.

Buttercup gets kidnapped by a trio of outlaws- Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), a Sicilian mastermind who greatly overestimates his own brilliance, gentle giant Fezzik, (Andre the Giant), and dashing Hispanic swordsman Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), who wishes to avenge his father’s murder at the hand of six fingered swordsman, Count Rugen (Christopher Guest). Shortly afterwards, they encounter a mysterious masked bandit known as the Man in Black, who is determined to rescue Buttercup…

“The Princess Bride” was simply a joy to watch. I hadn’t seen it since I was about 8 years old, and I remember being transfixed by the fantastical elements and sets. The characters themselves are immensely memorable. The villains are entertaining without being too hammy or over the top. The cameo appearances by notable celebrities contained no shortage of jokes. One of my favourites includes  British comedian Peter Cook as the “Impressive Clergyman” who mangles phrases such as “Mawage” and “Twue wuv”. It simply has to be seen to be believed! Plus, Billy Crystal, unrecognisable under make up and prosthetics appears in one short sequence as medicine man, Miracle Max, with Carol Kane as his nagging wife, Valerie.

Another thing I should note about this movie is that it’s incredibly quotable. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, it’s almost  guaranteed that you can recite lines from it at random. Some of these include “as you wish” , “Have fun storming the castle” and “Inconceivable”. But the most famous quote possibly has to be (all together now!): “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die”!

One aspect of the story that I didn’t expect to enjoy was the framing device between the grandfather and his grandson. Usually when a movie’s main narrative is depicted as one character telling it to another, it can get a little jarring to be pulled out of the action just to show the character’s reactions to the events at hand (as seen in “The Notebook”, Reiner’s own “Stand by Me” and virtually any episode of “How I Met your Mother”). Not so much in this case.  The cutaways to Savage and Falk flowed naturally, and didn’t attract attention away from the main story. If anything, they only enhanced them.

“The Princess Bride” earns a full distinction of 5 out of 5 stars from me. It’s one of those classic movies that almost everyone can remember being a staple of their childhoods, and I’d definitely recommend showing it to younger kids. (And yes, there is some kissing involved!) Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!








Putting Dirty Dancing in its Corner…

As many of you may have noticed from my recent reviews, I have been watching a number of movies about dancing, the majority of them from the 80’s period. While I’ve enjoyed musing over the various formulas of other 80’s dance movies (Footloose, Flashdance, to name but a few), the dance flick I enjoyed the most was “Dirty Dancing”(1987), starring the late, great Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. Its premise may seem to be run of the mill and twee, but I love it for its simplistic nature and the sheer chemistry between the lead actors (although they’re rumoured to have immensely disliked each other off the set).

The story concerns Frances “Baby” Houseman( Jennifer Grey), a sweet but somewhat sheltered high school graduate who’s vacationing in Kellerman’s resort in Catskills Mountains with her parents and her flirty, vapid sister Lisa (Jane Brucker) in the summer of 1963. While trying to avoid the attentions of Neil ( Lonny Price), the snobby grandson of the resort’s owner (Jack Weston), Baby discovers that the staff often partake in surreptitious late night dance parties. It’s there were she develops a crush on hunky, yet charming dance instructor, Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze).

Disaster strikes when Penny (Cynthia Rhodes), Johnny’s dancing partner, becomes pregnant, and decides to illegally terminate the pregnancy. Baby offers to step up and take Penny’s place in time for an important dance contest, and soon she and Johnny are getting closer in many ways. However, she finds herself torn between her budding romance with Johnny and her close relationship with her overprotective doctor father, Jake (Jerry Orbach). Will true love prevail? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out…

“Dirty Dancing” is a movie where the potentially tired and cliched story line is given added zest due to the number of dance sequences in order to give the format a new lease of life. There are moments within the movie which verge into corny territory (namely the “nobody puts Baby in the corner” scene towards the end), but for others, that’s just part of the movie’s charm. In fact, when I saw a musical production of “Dirty Dancing” a few years ago, the audience went absolutely bananas for that line!

Jennifer Grey delivers a brilliant performance as a young woman on the cusp of adulthood who grows up over the course over the story. I found it amazing how she could go from playing a sassy, rude high schooler in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” to a well intentioned, naive maiden. Patrick Swayze additionally proves that he could tackle romance comedies on top of his more notable action roles.

All in all, I’d allow kids aged 13 and up to see this movie, as they may be ready for some of the movie’s more mature scenes, such as Penny’s subplot. “Dirty Dancing” earns 4 out of 5 stars, as it consistently manages to be entertaining without dragging. I had a fantastic time while watching, and I owe it all to the actors, and the songs, naturally! Happy viewing!