Rob Reiner, who's said to have been wanting to make a movie of the William Goldman novel for many more years than he'd actually been a moviemaker, is not at this point a good enough director to cover up for a not good enough idea: he's still tied too tightly to the TV sitcom sensibility (acquired no doubt in his years as an actor on All in the Family), all the way down to the clunking closeup of whoever happens to be talking at the moment. In fairness he does seem to keep on trying to do something a little different, only he is doing something less different here than he seems to think. The possibilities of the tongue-in-cheek swashbuckling adventure have been pretty thoroughly mapped out in such things as, coming forwards in time, The Great Race, Richard Lester's The Three (and Four) Musketeers, Richard Quine's The Prisoner of Zenda, Flash Gordon, and the Indiana Jones films. And the Errol Flynn-Douglas Fairbanks prototypes never had their tongues far from their cheeks in the first place. But forget all that now, if you possibly can, as you are guided again to The Shrieking Eels and The Cliffs of Insanity and The Fire Swamp, with its St. Bernard-sized rats, and The Pit of Despair and so on (only the names are different), to be regaled not so much by the actual spectacle of any of these sights as by the choking facetiousness of your tour-guide. This attitude of indulgent superiority is evidently supposed to coat the thing with a layer of "adultness." And for a second coat into the bargain, there is a present-day framing device whereby a horribly made-up and costumed grand-dad (Peter Falk) "reads" the story we are seeing to a precocious sitcom kid in his sickbed: a soft-sell pitch for literature (the television of yore) that had been done before, and better, in The Neverending Story. Winks and eye-rolls notwithstanding, however, The Princess Bride remains obstinately a movie for children. There is no harm in that. But there is not a lot else in it either. With Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon. (1987) — Duncan Shepherd
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