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: For this "20th Anniversary Edition" (although it seems like the 20th DVD edition of this movie - it's actually the 4th - or 5th if you count the two variations of the previous edition), we get...a whole lot less in the way of extras. The commentaries from the previous special editions, the featurettes, all that stuff - gone. All we get are three short featurettes: "The Princess Bride: Untold Tales", "The Art of Fencing" and "Fairytales and Folklore". There's also an interactive game. These three featurettes are nice (if pretty fluffy) and members of the cast and crew have come back for new interviews. However, they aren't enough to overlook the fact that the previous Buttercup Edition offered much more.
Final Thoughts: This is a great film, but this new release seems quite unnecessary, as prior releases of the film (which are still available) offer a lot more in the way of features. Those who own prior releases should stick with those, while those who don't already own the film and are looking to buy should head for the prior Buttercup Edition or Special Edition.