With classic films like This Is Spinal Tap and Stand By Me already under his belt, director Rob Reiner maintained his winning streak with The Princess Bride (1987), a timeless tale of love, revenge and one-liners. Despite its rather feminine title, this fractured fairy tale continues to please both genders with strong performances, big laughs and a brisk pace. There's a spark and warmth that keeps us coming back for more, which makes The Princess Bride feel youthful a quarter-century after its theatrical debut.
Our story revolves around the budding romance of beautiful Buttercup (Robin Wright, in her big-screen debut) and dashing Westley (Cary Elwes), as told by a grandfather (Peter Falk) to his sick grandson (Fred Savage) in modern times. Much like a traditional fairy tale, our story is deceptively simple: colorful characters abound, danger lurks at every turn and heroism overcomes extreme odds. Wright and Elwes carry most of the weight and warmth here, but our motley supporting cast remains equally memorable. From the lovable, late Andre the Giant to Spinal Tap's own Christopher Guest, the pitch-perfect casting of The Princess Bride ensures that each and every character stands out without fighting for attention. The obvious chemistry between both leads sparks the story's confident center, though: it's a love story above all else, so it's good to know that The Princess Bride has the heart to back everything up.
Even so, the film's breezy pace is what keeps everything light as a feather: this is obviously an abridged tale, unlike the thick book that Falk's character cracks open. Based on the story by William Goldman (who also wrote the screenplay, and would later collaborate with Reiner on Misery), our adventure is lean and dynamic, leaving room for plenty of character development and fun diversions without bogging us down with too much information. Clever visual gags and slapstick remind us that The Princess Bride never takes itself too seriously, yet it's obviously in love with the genre it lampoons. All too often, satire beats us over the head with reminders that everything is one big joke; here, the humor just feels like another extension of a timeless, heartfelt story. In short, Reiner's film succeeds without even trying hard.
Even before The Princess Bride hit Blu-Ray, it was approaching Terminator 2 and Dirty Dancing levels of saturation in the home video market---and in all honesty, there's little chance that any fan of the film doesn't already own it in one form or another. This new 25th Anniversary Blu-Ray marks the film's third release in high definition; like MGM's recent Spaceballs: The 25th Anniversary Edition, it's simply another case of an already-great disc with one or two new extras for good measure. Simply put, those who already own this version needn't bother with an upgrade, but everyone else should take a closer look.
Video & Audio Quality
As expected, this 25th Anniversary Edition features the same excellent 1080p transfer of The Princess Bride, which thankfully maintains its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This recycled effort is by no means a disappointment, as the film's intentionally soft atmosphere and hazy, colorful palette look about as good as possible within the limits of the format. Textures are uniformly strong, black levels are solid and no obvious digital imperfections could be spotted along the way. Again, there's very little to complain about overall, and I doubt anyone will be disappointed with this clean, crisp and film-like presentation.
DISCLAIMER: These screen caps are from promotional outlets and do not represent this Blu-Ray's native 1080p resolution.
As expected, the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track doesn't disappoint. Although The Princess Bride is obviously a dialogue-driven film, the sporadic bursts of action and excitement will give your rear speakers and subwoofer plenty to do. Strong channel separation, robust music cues and crisp dialogue are but a few of the highlights---and while the film shows its age on occasion, this is a tasteful mix that will keep your ears interested from start to finish. Optional Spanish (mono) and French (stereo) mixes are offered in lossy Dolby Digital format, as well as optional English, Spanish and French subtitles during the film.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen below, the menu design has been recycled from the previous Blu-Ray and its charming, low-budget appearance is fitting. This one-disc Region A release is housed in an eco-friendly keepcase and includes a promotional insert. I've gotta say, it's a crime that this film hasn't earned a Digibook release by now.
Two new retrospective extras are included, as well as a handful of recycled goodies from past releases. The first is a 25th Anniversary Chat
with Cary Elwes, Robin Wright and Rob Reiner (15 minutes), who are all in good spirits and eager to share plenty of interesting anecdotes about the film's production, release and lasting cultural impact. Also here is "Entering the Zeitgeist"
(15 minutes), which continues the film's pop culture influence through interviews with key cast members, producers and die-hard fans. The latter don't add much to the proceedings (and to be honest, usually strike me as embarrassing), but this fun diversion is still worth a look. Both are presented in 1080p and can be viewed individually or as a group.
Recycled supplements include two Audio Commentaries with Rob Reiner and author William Goldman, a brief "Art of Fencing" Featurette (7 minutes), a five year-old Production Featurette (27 minutes), an interesting Video Diary by Cary Elwes (4 minutes), a comedic look at Dread Pirate Roberts (12 minutes), two Retrospective Featurettes about the film's fairytale roots (26 minutes total), an interesting Makeup Featurette (11 minutes) and an "Untold Tales" Featurette (9 minutes), which ironically repeats several bits of information about the film's production and lasting impact. All of these vintage supplements are presented in 480p and, like the newer extras, do not include optional subtitles. Boo! BOOOO!
This isn't quite a definite release, however. Missing from previous discs are two short vintage behind-the-scenes featurettes, a few TV spots, the film's international trailer and an extensive photo gallery.... as well as the bonus features from Criterion's old laserdisc, if we're being picky. Still, there's plenty here to dig through, though the new supplements aren't reason enough to buy this film on Blu-Ray again.
The Princess Bride is unquestionably worth owning. This timeless tale of romance and adventure still holds up perfectly, while the replay value is as high as a child's most treasured book. You know, that one with the loose spine, wrinkled cover and dog-eared pages that the whole family knows by heart. MGM's 25th Anniversary Edition lightly improves upon an already-great disc, pairing a strong A/V presentation with a few new extras (and plenty of old ones). Owners of the 2009 Blu-Ray can probably skip this one, but those still clutching their DVDs will be pleased with MGM's budget-priced disc. Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey from Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.