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Click above to purchase "The Princess Bride: Special Edition" at amazon.com

 

The Princess Bride
Special Edition

review by Zach B.

 

Rated PG

Studio: MGM

Running Time: 98 minutes

Starring Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, Andre The Giant
Special Appearances by Peter Falk and Billy Crystal (plus Fred Savage)

Screenplay by William Goldman
Based upon his book

Directed by Rob Reiner

Retail Price: $29.98

Features: Audio Commentary with Director/Producer Rob Reiner, Audio Commentary with Writer William Goldman, "As You Wish" documentary, Cary Elwes Video Diary, 1987 Behind-The-Scenes Featurette, 1987 Featurette, Four TV Spots, Theatrical Trailer, Foreign Trailer, Collectible Booklet

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, Spanish Mono, English Closed Captions, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Scene Selections (28 Scenes)

"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

It took nearly fifteen years for "The Princess Bride" to come to the silver screen, and many argue it was worth the wait. William Goldman, an Oscar® winning writer, wrote the book and also wrote the screenplay for the movie. After so much shifting and problems, the movie finally got off the ground with Reiner at the helm (though a week before the shoot they weren't sure if they had money or not, thankfully it worked out). While the movie was not a tremendous success financially, it has become a big favorite for kids and adults during the past few years. After releasing a lackluster DVD the first time around for "The Princess Bride", MGM re-releases it and the results are much, much better this time around.

The story of "The Princess Bride" is of Buttercup (a young Robin Wright Penn) who falls in love with her farm boy, Westley. However, one day Westley leaves Buttercup to seek some fortune so he can provide for his lover. However, he never returns when word comes he's been captured by the pirate Roberts. So, a few years pass and Buttercup is about to marry Prince Humperdinck. Of course, she really doesn't love him. Buttercup gets kidnapped, and in return, is rescued by a mysterious man... who of course, is Westley. But it's not all that easy. I don't want to spoil the movie, but a lot of things happen as Westley becomes friends with the kidnappers, Buttercup needs to be rescued again and evil must be stopped so they can all live happily ever after. And with all this, it's a story being told by a grandfather to his grandson.

For some reason, I don't know why, this movie ranks as an all time favorite for my generation. It is a really popular movie that just seems to gain more and more of an audience, all thanks to the magic of video. "The Princess Bride" is a new classic of sorts, as it captures the magic of a fairy tale with its own twists. This movie just appeals to people for one reason ore another, and it seems fairy tale rips have becoming more and more popular (i.e. the recent major success of "Shrek"). Why I don't think it's worked its way into popular culture completely, there's no denying a lot of people do recognize it and instantly recall characters, lines and whatnot. Despite all this, I think this movie is vastly overrated. It's not a bad movie by any means, not at all. I just don't see why so many people love this movie to death. Is it because of child fascination with fairy tales? The characters and events? I don't know. People just find this movie so magical and enjoyable. What I like about this movie is how it works on two levels. Kids will enjoy the story and characters, while adults are more likely to enjoy the movie based on the satire it brings and humor that will fly over the kiddies' heads.

William Goldman's script, based on his book, is probably why I think this movie is overrated. I never read the book, but with his script he crams a lot and creates a beautiful fairy tale world. The character development is very good (not to mention the very interesting characters), and he establishes things nicely. I mentioned the humor before, and that's great, while the dialogue is sharp. Despite the zaniness, he puts together good themes and morals as well. Yet I guess what I didn't like about it is how some portions lack a good build-up, that they need a bit more strength rather than relying on comic humor. The movie, to me, feels a bit uneven. I guess I was looking for more adventure and tension in this. Still, despite why I think it's flawed, it's a very good script.

Rob Reiner offers up good direction for his third film. He has good shots and sets this movie at a very good pace, it just keeps moving and goes very, very fast. The editing in this movie is good so you get a nice glimpse of what's going on. Mark Knopfler's score is really, really beautiful. It perfectly captures the whole idea and measure of a fairy tale world. He uses good instruments and it sounds lovely. It's catchy and perfectly fitting. It's just a perfect blend that goes hand in hand with the film. It's magical and brings a lot to the movie in the end.

The acting here is brilliant, to say the least. It really brings the film to life and gives it a strong punch because the actors have s much enthusiasm and make the roles believable, like this world actually does exist. Cary Elwes is charming as Westley, while he shares good chemistry with Robin Wright as Buttercup, who is very good herself with the vulnerability and certain strength she brings. The late Andre The Giant is good too. Wallace Shawn is hilarious and fun like usual, and it's too bad there wasn't more of him. Christopher Guest and Chris Sarandon bring a good sense of evil and wit to their roles, while Mandy Patinkin shows so much range and really stands out. Special appearances by a pre-"Wonder Years" Fred Savage, Peter Falk, Carol Kane and Billy Crystal are wonderful. Overall, some great comedic and strong acting is within this film.

"The Princess Bride" will probably just get bigger over time as it has founds an audience who will spread the movie with their children, and in return their children's children and so forth. While I thought there could have been more to the story, there is a lot to like about this movie. Good writing, good directing and acting that's a good fit. If you still haven't seen it, this new special edition DVD edition from MGM is a very good excuse to check it out.

A lot of people were disappointed with the original release of the movie by MGM. Despite the fact there were hardly any supplements, the movie was presented in non-anamorphic widescreen. Well, now it's all okay as MGM has served up a terrific anamorphic widescreen transfer (aspect ratio of 1.85:1) that makes it pop off the screen. It is a little soft at times and you can see some grain, but overall, it's the best shape I've ever seen the movie in. Colors and fleshtones are well saturated, while detail and blacks are very good. Blemishes, nicks and scratches appear on the print somewhat often, but they never become too distracting. Overall, this is a pretty fine image.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 English track for "The Princess Bride" suits the film well, but it's nothing spectacular and I was a little unsatisfied, as I was expecting a little bit more. Still, the main draw for me was Mark Knopfler's score. I think the score is incredible (as I mentioned before), and it sounds particularly nice and soothing through the channels. There are some particularly good effects, including the the torture sequence and a lot of sword fighting, not to mention the whole big rat-thing fight. Dialogue is clear and easy to hear, it doesn't sound muffled and other sounds don't interfere with it. .1 LFE extension is nothing too special, but in the end I felt the surrounds could have been a bit stronger, considering the many action-oriented noises. Still, it's a good mix for what it is.

Sweet! MGM has once again created another fantastic special edition for one of their movies. There's a lot of great stuff on this disc that I really enjoyed, and is a prime example of how special editions that aren't crammed with so much should be. There's a lot on the making of, a lot of information and a good deal of promotional materials. So let's get started...

The new As You Wish documentary is really wonderful and a great inclusion to the package. It features the usual array of behind the scenes footage, film clips but the main draw here are the brand new interviews, as it takes a good look back at the movie and brings a good perspective to everything. New interviews with Rob Reiner, William Goldman, Christopher Guest, Billy Crystal, Cary Elwes, Fred Savage, Mandy Patinkin and Robin Wright-Penn are included. They look back at the making of the movie, how it took a bit to make, how Reiner got the job, Andre The Giant, fairy tales and the overall impact the movie has had, going from average box office to cult video status. This is a good watch, but overall I felt there could have been a more depth to this documentary and that it could have been longer. Still, it's a nice and enjoyable look back fans of the movie should check out.

There are two brand new audio commentaries in this package, which I was glad to see and help give more insight on the movie. The Audio Commentary with Director and Producer Rob Reiner, is well, pretty good. Reiner has come under attack before with his audio commentaries as people have criticized his comments lacking insight and the many moments of silence. This was the first Reiner commentary I have ever listened to if you must know, and I enjoyed it. There are gaps of silence here and there, but they never last too long. Reiner's comments are never entirely screen specific, but it seems like he loved making the movie and looks back at it very fondly. He remembers shooting locations, events and annoyances that happened during the movie's production. I will admit I found it a little boring at times, but overall, there's some good stories here about making the movie, as he does offer a lot of praise too. Still, a lot of his comments can be found in interviews on the extras on this DVD, not to mention from the really, really nice Collectible Booklet included with the DVD.

The second Audio Commentary with Writer William Goldman is quite good and also a good listen that I suggest fans of the movie should check out, even if it's not totally specific to what's going on screen. It's the first time Goldman is watching the movie since the original release. Goldman is talkative, very honest, relaxed and brings a lot of information to this track. He discusses the differences between the novel and the screenplay, tells light-hearted stories and offers a lot of praise too. Yet the key thing here is that he talks a lot about how Hollywood can be a bit BS at times, and successful movies as well as finding an audience. While I enjoyed his insight and perspective, there are quite a few times where you'll hear dead air on the commentary, I guess Goldman just gets wrapped up in the movie. Still, it's pretty interesting.

The Cary Elwes Video Diary is an interesting mix of video footage Elwes shot while making the movie. There's a variety of stuff to be found here, and all the footage is accompanied by Elwes' narration about what's going on and some background. As we see footage of fencing practice, Rob Reiner, Andre The Giant, make-up and all sorts of things Elwes talks about the people instead of what's going on screen directly. Fun, though pretty short.

The 1987 "The Making Of The Princess Bride" Featurette isn't so promotional, and though it only lasts a few minutes, it's an interesting watch as far as more of what happened behind the camera. It has behind-the-scenes footage, clips from the movie and interviews with Reiner, Goldman, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane and a few others including the stunt coordinator and production designer. It also has things on the makeup. A good watch.

The 1987 Featurette is pure Fox theatrical EPK material. Clips from the movie, behind-the-scenes footage and in all, a more promotional feel. Interviews with Reiner, Wallace Shawn (YES!), Mandy Patakin, Carol Kane, Billy Crystal and some others are on this featurette. It's short, but in all, a decent though fluffy watch.

There's a Photo Gallery with eighty-eight photos in total and divided up into the following sections: "True Love", "Buttercup - Robin Wright Penn", "The Sicilian, The Spaniard & The Giant Turk", "The Villains", "Miracle Max - Billy Crystal", "The Grandfather - Peter Falk", "Rob Reiner", "Behind The Scenes", "Special F/X" and "Poster Art", that one including a poster even in Hebrew. Very nice and cool photos to look at all around.

The disc also includes four TV Spots (good ones too!), the Theatrical Trailer in full frame and the Foreign Trailer that does have its fair share of spoilers. It is also in full frame.

Kudos to MGM for once again revisiting an old title that wasn't so spectacular the first time around. "The Princess Bride" deserves this kind of treatment, and the package in total is pretty stellar. While MGM hasn't gotten things right the first time around, it's good to see them going back and making amends. Even if you own the original edition, this one is worth picking up for the spiffy new transfer and fantastic supplements alone.

(3.5/5 - NOT included in final score)

(4/5)

(3/5)

(3.5/5)

(3/5, NOT an average)

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