Sick at home and amusing himself with video games, a young boy (Fred Savage) is disappointed to be left in the care of his cheek-pinching Grandfather. Worse yet, the elderly man (Peter Falk) has brought with him a book, which he sarcastically explains was his generation's definition of TV. With few other options, the ailing child sinks back on the pillows to listen and soon finds himself engaged in The Princess Bride, a story of action, adventure, dashing heroes and damsels in distress.
Young Buttercup (Robin Wright) should believe all her fairytale dreams have come true when she, a commoner, is chosen by Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) to be his bride. Instead, the despondent girl is still grieving over the loss of her true love Wesley (Cary Elwes). Five years earlier, the poor farm boy headed off to make his fortune with a promise to return and marry her. However, his journey crossed paths with The Dread Pirate Roberts (an infamous scallywag known for not taking prisoners) and the lady-in-waiting received word her heart's desire had perished at sea.
Without much enthusiasm, the future princess prepares for the regal nuptials. Then, shortly before the big day arrives, the beautiful Buttercup is kidnapped by three curious men claiming to be circus performers (Wallace Shawn, Mandy Patinkin, and Andre the Giant), chased by a masked-man dressed in black, dragged through a fire swamp, swallowed in a sand trap and attacked by rodents of unusual size. But all is not as bleak as it sounds because along the way she discovers a possibility of realizing real romance again.
However, her royal fiance is not as pleased as she with her newfound prospects for living happily ever after. Besides, he and his right hand man (Christopher Guest) have their fingers in some dastardly plans of their own, which the merry maiden's flights of fancy threaten to disturb.
Played throughout with a tongue-in-cheek attitude, the movie spoofs fairytales, mimics the swordfights of great swashbucklers, and assembles a collection of memorable character actors (like Billy Crystal as Miracle Max and Peter Cook as a clergyman with a speech impediment). It's a quirky enough combination of melodrama and comedy that it has attracted a faithful following that can quote lines (and even whole scenes) in a fashion similar to the fans of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Taken as lightly as it was intended, The Princess Bride is a silly, clever slice of entertainment. Yet for young viewers, the subtle humor may be missed in some of the violent depictions and vengeance theme, which include elaborate sword fights (some characters and an animal are impaled and blood is shown), hand to hand combat, poisonings, death threats, attacks by viscous animals, mentions of suicide, and torture. The worst of these is the merciless Gestapo-like character that inflicts pain with obvious pleasure. There are also a couple of sexual innuendos, a man portrayed as overcome with drunkenness, a moderate profanity and some terms of deity used as expletives.
Although the movie had only mediocre returns at the box office, it went on to attain cult status once it released to the then, just budding, home video market. Now The Princess Bride enjoys multiple generations of fans, a success so phenomenal it's almost -- inconceivable.
Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...
Played out in swashbuckling, melodramatic style, The Princess Bride‘s biggest concern for family viewers will be it’s violent depictions. While usually intended to invoke humor (like some elaborate sword fights, hand to hand combat and a battle of wits that ends in a death by poisoning), some of the portrayals come off as quite serious (such as characters and an animal impaled by swords and daggers—with blood shown, and a merciless Gestapo who tortures his victim with an unexplained suction-cup machine). Other miscellaneous issues include a kidnapping attempt, death threats, falls down cliffs, attacks by viscous animals, scorches by fire, near suffocation in sandpits, contemplations of suicide and a desire for vengeance. Sexual content is limited to a couple of innuendos and some passionate kisses. There is also a character overcome with drunkenness, a moderate profanity and some terms of deity used as expletives.
Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...
Despite some adverse situations, the Dread Pirate Roberts maintains an overly optimist attitude, like when he comments about the beauty of the trees in the fire swamp. How does this outlook help him and others to overcome their challenges? How can optimism help you?
What does the grandson learn as he listens to his grandpa’s story? What sources do you seek for entertainment? (In keeping with his wise lesson, you may want to look for the book version of The Princess Bride at your local library or bookstore.)
The Court Jester, starring the incomparable Danny Kaye, is another medieval movie mixing swashbuckling swordplay and silly shenanigans. Dread seamen also interfere with romance in the adventure yarn Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
Home Video Notes
Home Video Notes: The Princess Bride: 25th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)
Release Date: 2 October 2012
In honor of its twenty-fifth anniversary, The Princess Bride is being released (again) to home video. The Blu-ray package includes:
- Audio commentaries with Director Rob Reiner & Screenwriter William Goldman
- Original theatrical trailer
- Easter eggs
- As You Wish: The Story of The Princess Bride
- The Princess Bride: The Untold Tales
- The Art of Fencing
- Fairy Tales and Folklore
- Miraculous Makeup
- Cary Elwes’ video diary
- The Dread Pirate Roberts: Greatest Pirate of the Seven Seas
- Love is Like a Storybook
- Exclusive HD Content: All-new, two-part True Love: The Princess Bride Phenomenon retrospective documentary
Blu-ray Notes: The Princess Bride
Release Date: 17 March 2009
The Princess Bride walks down the Blu-ray isle for the first time. Arrayed in widescreen, the disc offers audio tracks in 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio (English), Mono (Spanish) and Dolby Surround (French), with subtitles in English, French and Spanish. Attendants at the royal wedding include:
-Audio Commentary by Rob Reiner
-Audio Commentary by William Goldman
-As You Wish: The Story of The Princess Bride
-Cary Elwes Video Diary
-The Dread Pirate Roberts: Greatest Pirate of the Seven Seas
-Love is Like a Storybook
-The Princess Bride The Untold Tales featurette
- The Art of Fencing featurette
-Fairytales and Folklore featurette
-Original theatrical trailer
DVD Notes: The Princess Bride 20th Anniversary Edition
DVD Release Date: 13 November 2007
If you missed out on last year’ DVD release of this title, have no fears. The Princess Bride is again available, this time in a 20th Anniversary Edition. Besides the amazing, redesigned read-either-up-or-down-side logo, this version offers brand new bonus materials such as True Love and High Adventure (the official Princess Bride Video Game) and three featurettes (Princess Bride: The Untold Tales, The Art of Fencing and Fairytales and Folklore). The audio track is recorded in Dolby Surround 5.1 (English), with subtitles in English, French and Spanish.
DVD Notes: The Princess Bride
DVD Release Date: 13 June 2006
If you are among the cult following of The Princess Bride, then this 2-disc Collector’s Edition will be just “as you wish.” Marketed to appeal to both genders of fans, the DVD is presented in either a swashbuckling Dread Pirate Edition (blue box) or a romantic Buttercup Edition (pink box). Once past the outer packaging, the content is the same. Extras include the documentaries Dread Pirate Roberts: Greatest Legend of the Seven Seas (a Historical Analysis of possible inspirations for the story’s character) As You Wish: The Story of The Princess Bride, and Love is like a Storybook Story (where cast and crew share their thoughts on the production. Mandy Patinkin’s comments are especially poignant as he shares how he used the memory of his father to help with his character motivation.) Some of the other features are; Miraculous Make-up, Cary Elwes’ Home Movies, the original 1987 featurette, a vintage making-of documentary, and the original theatrical trailer. For fun, test your memory with The Quotable Battle of Wits Trivia Game, or enjoy the collectable booklet titled Fezzik’s Guide to Florin. If you are in a more serious mood, tune into the audio commentaries by director Rob Reiner and author William Goldman. Audio tracks are available in English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French and Spanish, with subtitles in English, French and Spanish.