The Princess Bride
- Street Date:
- March 17th, 2009
- Reviewed by:
- Steven Cohen
- Review Date: 1
- June 26th, 2011
- Movie Release Year:
- MGM Home Entertainment
- 98 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Rated PG
- Release Country
- United States
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Tales, yarns, chronicles, legends, myths, anecdotes, parables, fables, narratives. Whatever you choose to call them, stories and storytelling have been around since man could… well, since man could. It’s just in us. Simple as that, rooted deeply in our DNA. It’s a necessity, a natural and essential function, like breathing or eating. It’s primal. We need to do it. We need to tell stories by firelight. We need to splatter paint on cave walls. We need to look at the world with eyes full of wonder and possibility. We need voices in the dark. Sometimes we need them to explain, to excite, to inform, to teach, to entertain, to inspire, to enlighten, or in some cases to merely fill the silence. In Rob Reiner's 1987 classic 'The Princess Bride,' the story in question is told for one very specific purpose, and that so seemingly uncomplicated, pure, and honest motive -- as so beautifully expressed by Mandy Patinkin in the included special features -- is for a Grandfather to tell his Grandson, that the most important thing in life… is true love. This tiny morsel of truth sets off a grand adventure, spinning a yarn full of fairy tale magic, storybook charm, and laugh-out-loud wit, cementing this beloved film as a timeless classic for all ages.
While it seems almost inconceivable that one might be unfamiliar with the plot, the script follows a sick, young boy (Fred Savage) who is read a story by his Grandfather (the late Peter Falk). Through this framing device, the audience is thrust into a medieval fantasy that sees a beautiful Princess named Buttercup (Robin Wright), get kidnapped by a trio of comical villains (or are they?) played by the amazing Wallace Shawn, Mandy Patinkin, and Andre the Giant. Setting off after the Princess, is her husband to be, the pompous Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) and his stooge, the evil six fingered man Count Tyrone Rugen (Christopher Guest). Also thrown into the mix, is her long lost love, the heroic Westley (Cary Elwes), who valiantly quests to rescue her from the clutches of her nefarious captors. What follows is an affectionate celebration of fairy tale clichés that both spoofs and praises the conventions of its everlasting genre, acting as a kind of love letter to all things wondrous.
Based on his own (hilarious) novel, screenwriter William Goldman achieves a brilliant balance of comedy, romance, and adventure in his screenplay. Classic archetypes are thrown on screen and allowed to embrace and champion their own broad and lasting characteristics with satire and sincerity. Set pieces are placed on old, wooden ships, in majestic castles, dark swamps, and towering cliffs. Common fantasy tropes are dissected and deconstructed and a sometimes anachronistic, contemporary sense of humor fuels the comedy which pervades throughout. With the framing device of the Grandfather and Grandson, Goldman is able to directly comment on storytelling itself, throwing in fun little intrusions that play with and examine expectations, reactions, and the very nature of our age-spanning obsession with the fictitious. As the film takes various twists and turns and our hero looks like he might not succeed, the child bursts out in protest, literally halting the progression of the plot, and we the audience are right there with him. After all, the villain can't possibly win, can he? The hero can't possibly die, can he? These are all concepts that Goldman fiddles with in a fantastically fun and intelligent manner.
All of these self-aware elements help to make 'The Princess Bride' the classic that it is, but at its heart, this film is really just a well told fairy tale with wonderfully realized characters, and thankfully director Rob Reiner never loses sight of that. Through a picturesque lens, Reiner captures the beauty and magic of the English countryside, transporting his audience into another world. Making the best of a fairly low budget, the filmmaker pulls off a lot with comparatively little. The cast itself is also fantastic, with performers who were seemingly born for the roles they inhabit. Elwes and Wright are the embodiment of young love, with Elwes pulling off an effortless air of swashbuckling heroics and Wright exuding a regal yet sweet aura of beauty and compassion. The chemistry between the pair acts as the glue which holds the picture together. As the revenge seeking sword fighter Inigo Montoya, Mandy Patinkin plays the part of a lifetime, delivering one of the most quoted lines in movie history. His climactic showdown is one of those scenes where an audience really can't help but literally standup and cheer for a character. The rest of the players all deliver terrific, enchanting performances as well, including a fun cameo from Billy Crystal.
Packed with quotable dialogue and memorable sequences, 'The Princess Bride' is an infinitely re-watchable film. It's the type of movie that you might find playing on TV in the middle of the night, and no matter where it might be in the story, you're still somehow compelled to stop, put the remote down, get comfortable, and watch, like revisiting an old friend. Though the plot is filled with little bits of intelligent commentary and humor, really, this is just a simple chronicle of love, told with charm, grace, wit, and passion, and that's all any great tale really is. Isn't it?
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
MGM brings 'The Princess Bride' to Blu-ray on a region A, BD-50 disc housed in a standard case. A DVD copy of the film is also included in the package. Special note must also be made of the disc's cover art which features a beautifully done ambigram of the title.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Presented in a 1080p/AVC transfer in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the film looks quite lovely.
The source is clean and a light, natural layer of grain is visible throughout. A few shots exhibit a very slight smeary quality which may be indicative of some extremely minor DNR, but it's never distracting and the movie as a whole has a pleasing film like quality. Detail can be very strong and many scenes feature a good level of depth and dimensionality. Colors are beautifully vibrant without being unnatural and the many wide shots of lush, English countryside simply pop off of the screen. Contrast is strong and black levels are deep and inky.
There really isn't much to complain about with this video presentation. Though some scenes are definitely more impressive than others and the film's occasional lower budget roots do shine through (a lot of effects work is much more noticeable thanks to the added level of detail), this a very fine transfer for a very fine film.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
'The Princess Bride' is provided with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track as well as a Spanish Mono track and a French Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Subtitle options include English SDH and Spanish.
Dialogue is nice and crisp delivering all of the memorable lines with clarity and precision. Directionality between the front soundstage is good but rear activity is a little subdued, with only some minor effects and music cues. Dynamic range is respectable but not terribly wide and bass response is fine though it never really stands out. Balance between all of the audio elements is good and thankfully nothing gets lost in the aural shuffle.
It may not hold up to contemporary surround sound tracks, but the mix here is certainly respectful of the source material and more than adequate at serving the film.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
MGM has provided a very nice assortment of supplements, including two audio commentaries and various featurettes. A DVD version of the movie is also included. All special features are presented in standard definition with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio and no subtitle options unless otherwise noted.
- Audio Commentary by Director Rob Reiner - Recorded in 2001, this solo track from Rob Reiner is pretty standard fare. The director covers the basics, offering information on how he was first introduced to the book and how he became involved in the film project. He also provides various bits of trivia on production, casting, and locations. Some particularly amusing nuggets include a familiar piece of 'This is Spinal Tap' wardrobe showing up in a few shots, the fact that Patinkin and Elwes did all of their own sword fighting, and a brief story about how Reiner almost drowned on-set. The director does have a habit of occasionally just reiterating what's on screen, but for the most part, this is an informative and entertaining track.
- Audio Commentary by Screenwriter William Goldman - Goldman provides a decent track focusing on some differences between his original novel and the film, as well as details on the various difficulties that kept stalling a film adaptation for many years. Before starting the track he admits that hasn't seen the movie since it was first released and as expected, there are numerous pauses in his discussion where he seems to be simply watching the film. Still, this is a worthwhile commentary and Goldman offers some interesting insights into his writing process, the film's unfocused marketing campaign, and budgetary restrictions. He also tends to use the words "swell" and "neat" a lot, which, as far as I'm concerned, is mighty swell and neat of him.
- As You Wish: The Story of The Princess Bride (SD, 27 min) - This is a pretty comprehensive making of featurette that includes interviews with just about all of the major cast and crew (only Wallace Shawn and the late Andre the Giant seem to be absent). The film's journey from book to screen is chronicled, detailing casting, locations, marketing, and the movie's lasting appeal. Some time is also dedicated to remembering Andre the Giant who passed away in 1993. Though some information is repeated from the commentaries, this is definitely a worthy extra for fans of the film.
- Miraculous Makeup (SD, 11 min) - The makeup up process that turned Billy Crystal into Miracle Max is the focus of this supplement. Interviews with Crystal and the makeup artist are included along with behind-the-scenes footage of the process.
- The Dread Pirate Roberts: Greatest Pirate of the Seven Seas (SD, 12 min) - This is a mildly amusing, tongue-in-cheek examination of some similarities between the character of The Dread Pirate Roberts and a real historical pirate called Black Bart. Interviews with pirate experts -- and what appears to be actor Cary Elwes in makeup pretending to be a pirate expert -- are included. While slightly entertaining, the joke never really lands and the featurette overstays its welcome.
- Love is Like a Storybook (SD, 17 min) - A disappointingly pretentious examination of fairy tale structure is presented here with various professors over-analyzing the plot and themes of the film.
- The Princess Bride: The Untold Tales (SD, 9 min) - Some more interviews with the cast are featured with additional anecdotes about working on-set and about Andre the Giant. The film genuinely seems to mean a lot to everyone who worked on it, and that passion is evident in all of their stories.
- The Art of Fencing (SD, 7 min) - In this featurette a sword choreographer discuses the style of sword fighting featured in the movie along with interviews from the cast discussing their intense training for the stunt scenes. Apparently Mandy Patinkin got so into character that he actually stabbed Christopher Guest in the thigh. Whoops.
- Fairy Tales and Folklore (SD, 9 min) - Similar to one of the previous featurettes, this is basically some more discussion about the film's relationship to classic fairy tales and adventure stories. While a bit redundant, this is a lot less pretentious than the other supplement.
- Video Diary from Cary Elwes (SD, 4 min) - Footage taken by Cary Elwes during the making of the film is included with commentary by Elwes and Robin Wright. The two reminisce about the movie and tell a few more brief anecdotes, including a particularly interesting tidbit that involves famous playwright Samuel Beckett driving Andre the Giant to school.
- Original Theatrical Trailer (HD) - The film's original theatrical trailer is presented in 1080p. Much like William Goldman discusses in his commentary, it's clear from this trailer that the studio simply had no idea how to market the movie's mixture of genres.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
There are no HD exclusives.
'The Princess Bride' is a simple yarn about true love, one that rises toward classic status thanks to some witty dialogue, intelligent scripting, passionate direction, and unforgettable characters. This is a film that works for all ages and plays just as fresh today as it did when first released over two decades ago. The Blu-ray features strong video and solid audio, as well as a healthy assortment of supplements, making this an easy title to recommend. In fact, someone not wanting to check this disc out is just plain… inconceivable!
- Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack
- BD-50 Dual Layer Disc
- Region A
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English DTS HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround
- French Dolby Digital 2.0
- Spanish Dolby Digital Mono
- English SDH
- Audio Commentaries
- Theatrical Trailer
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