Another great 80's film that makes one wish fantasy films like it (see also: "Neverending Story", "Goonies", etc.) were still made, "The Princess Bride" opens with a grandfather (Peter Falk) stopping in to read a story to his sick grandson (Fred Savage). The story involves a princess named Buttercup (Robin Wright), who falls in love with a farm boy named Westley (Cary Elwes).
While Westley's away and eventually thought killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts, the Princess is taken by Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), who has his sights set on marrying her. However, a group of men lead by Vizzini (a terrific Wallace Shawn) take her in an attempt to start a war. Little does she know that Westley's not dead and is attempting a rescue.
The film reveals itself as a fun parody of these kind of fantasy movies, while remaining exciting adventure at the same time. Westley faces many villians and their chatty battles are full of terrific, quotable one-liners and the occasional great swordfight. William Goldman's script (based on his own novel) is sharply funny for both adults and children and Reiner's direction plays the tone of it perfectly right. As for the performances, Elwes and Penn offer terrific performances here (a career best for Elwes) and marvelous supporting efforts come from Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Peter Falk and others. Overall, "Princess Bride" is still a smart, funny and entertaining picture that holds up very well years later.
VIDEO: The original edition of "Princess Bride" was presented in 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen by MGM. That failure was remedied with MGM's anamorphic transfer for the original Special Edition, which is carried over for this release. The anamorphic presentation is an improvement over the original release, but still encounters some minor problems of its own. Although the film does have a rather soft appearance, this new edition does provide a crisper and more well-defined image overall.
Some minor print flaws do remain - a couple of speckles and the occasional mark appear now and then, but don't cause any real distraction, nor was there anything but minor wear. Edge enhancement does unfortunately become visible at times, as does a trace or two of pixelation. Some darker scenes also seem lightly grainy.
Colors still came across quite well, though. Although there are certain scenes that certainly don't use a bright color palette, most sequences offered bright, lively colors that looked clean and well-saturated. Flesh tones appeared accurate and natural, as well. Overall, this still has some flaws, but it's an improvement over the previous non-anamorphic edition. As for differences between this and the prior Special Edition presentation? The two transfers looked largely similar, although this new transfer appeared a bit crisper and colors had a bit more pop.
SOUND: Although this is Dolby Digital 5.1, the sound is really quite minimal; the score sounds impressively clear and clean, but other than the score and dialogue, there isn't a whole lot going on. Surround use is pretty subtle at most and usually, surrounds simply remain silent. Dialogue is clear and easily understood. The general quality of the audio is pleasing, but don't expect anything agressive.
EXTRAS: This new DVD edition (either the "Dread Pirate" edition or the "Buttercup" edition - both have the same features, just different cover art) does offer a few new supplements, but also carries over a bunch of extras from the prior release.
Commentaries: This is a commentary from director Rob Reiner and, he actually talks! For those who haven't listened to the director's previous tracks, Reiner has provided many commentaries where he hardly speaks. This is especially evident in his tracks for "A Few Good Men" and "When Harry Met Sally", where he commented for about 25-30% of the movie, leaving large gaps of silence. During this picture though, Reiner is seemingly able to recall more information about what went on during the making of the lower-budget (16m) picture. There's several interesting stories offered, as well as some insight into the story and information about the production. The director still does leave some gaps of silence now and then during the track, but he's much more talkative than previous commentaries he's offered.
The other commentary is from writer William Goldman, who admits as the picture opens that he hasn't seen the picture since its opening. As a result, the commentary does have some noticable pauses where Goldman either doesn't provide any information, or he gets caught up in watching the film. The writer does offer some tidbits about the history of the project, such as the fact that Norman Jewison was once going to be the director of the picture, for example. Although the writer doesn't provide a constant commentary, he does bring his own viewpoint and some interesting insights to the table. Both commentaries included are not some of the best that I've heard recently and some may occasionally tire of the space between comments, but fans will definitely find a few gems. It would have been nice if both were combined for one track, though.
As You Wish: This documentary runs about thirty minutes and contains a wealth of new interviews with Goldman, Reiner, Elwes, Wright, Fred Savage and others. The documentary has the group remembering stories from the set while Reiner and Goldman discuss issues such as casting and screenplay. The documentary is a bit "clip-heavy" at times, but overall, we get a fine amount of details about the making of the picture and a few fun stories.
Cary Elwes Video Documentary: This is a simple, 3 1/2 minute montage of clips that the actor shot on the set. Amusing, but not something I'd think that many will want to watch more than once.
Featurettes: I don't think that these will be items that will be good for more than one viewing, but I do appreciate their inclusion. Two featurettes from the time of the film's production are included. They're promotional and simply go over the story once again and provide a few behind-the-scenes clips.
Also: Photo Gallery (88 Photos), TV Spots, Theatrical Trailer, Foreign Trailer. The new featurettes included here are: "Love is Like a Storybook Story ", "Miraculous Makeup" and "Dread Pirate Roberts: Greatest Legend of the Seven Seas". There's also a new interactive quiz.
Final Thoughts: "Princess Bride" is still a smart, funny and entertaining picture that holds up very well years later. The new DVD Special Edition of the film offers slightly better image quality and a few new extras. It's definitely recommended for those who don't already own the film, but those who own the prior Special Edition don't really have much reason to upgrade here.
The Film A