By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: Grandson likes bedtime story.
Based on the 1973 William Goldman novel, who also wrote the screenplay, a grandfather (Peter Falk) arrives to read to his sick grandson (Fred Savage) a fairytale. Initially the grandson is more interested in playing video games, but soon finds himself enraptured with the story despite his initial reluctance. The tale involves a country girl named Buttercup (Robin Wright) who falls in love with a farmhand named Westley (Cary Elwes). When Buttercup mistakenly thinks that Westley has been killed by some pirates she agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) only to end up getting kidnapped before her wedding and saved by Westley who was never dead to begin with. The two then must fight off the evil Prince who still insists on marry Buttercup and doing away with Westley.
The film, which was directed by Rob Reiner and produced by his former ‘All in the Family’ creator Norman Lear, is engaging from beginning to end and filled with endlessly funny dialogue and exciting adventures that remain pleasantly amusing throughout. My favorite moment is seeing a completely unrecognizable Billy Crystal hamming it up as an old man magician who tries to revive Westley while sounding like a comedian from vaudeville.
The special effects are impressive especially the shot showing Buttercup’s three kidnappers climbing a rope up a steep mountain while being followed close behind by Westley. To me though the best part is when Westley gets attacked by what appears to be a giant rodent that, with the exception of his fake looking fur, looks amazingly real and not like a stuntman in a body suit or a computerized image.
The performers are well cast with my favorite being former wrestler Andre the Giant who steals it despite having no acting experience and at times difficulty enunciating his words. The only negative is Christopher Guest as a six fingered man who supposedly attacked the Mandy Patinkin character when he was a child, but now that Patinkin has grown he faces Guest again even though Guest looks to be practically his same age and not someone who should be significantly older.
The story is basic and lacks the grandiose and dark quality that many of the classic Grimm fairytales possess. The banter between the grandson and Grandfather is fun and I wished it had cut back-and-forth between the two and the story more often than it does. The context is simple and straight forward and its ‘message’ of teaching kids to learn to enjoy reading is a bit too obvious, but overall as non-think escapism it scores a bullseye and through the years has managed to acquire a strong cult following.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Released: September 25, 1987
Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes
Director: Rob Reiner
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube