Judge Mike Rubino finds this latest quadruple-dip by MGM inconceivable!
Our reviews of The Princess Bride (published July 21st, 2000), The Princess Bride: Special Edition (published September 6th, 2001), and The Princess Bride (Blu-Ray) (published April 2nd, 2009) are also available.
Vizzini: He didn't fall? Inconceivable!
No matter which way you slice it, this late-80s Rob Reiner fantasy tale is a true classic. It's witty, it's heartwarming, and it's endlessly quotable; but it has also been released on DVD in four other editions. Does this new "20th Anniversary Collector's Edition" bring anything new to the table? Well, I'll tell you…
Facts of the Case
The last thing I want when I'm sick is to have Columbo come into my bedroom and read me a story. A young boy, played by Fred Savage (Wonder Years), seems to feel the same way when his grandfather (Peter Falk) delivers him a fairy tale to help him overcome the flu. He quickly begins to reconsider, however, once the story of The Princess Bride begins.
A peasant girl named Buttercup (Robin Wright Penn, Forest Gump) discovers true love in her farm hand Westley (Cary Elwes, Robin Hood: Men in Tights). After she learns that he was supposedly murdered by a pirate, she becomes entrapped in a forced marriage with the evil Prince Humperdink. Before she is forced to marry the prince, she is kidnapped by a gang of thugs: the brains, Vizzini (Wallace Shawn, Melinda and Melinda); the Spaniard, Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin); and the giant, Fezzik (Andre the Giant). Just as she begins to feel as if all hope is lost, a mysterious man in black comes to her rescue.
With the Man in Black (not Johnny Cash) at her side, and Prince Humperdink hot on their trail, can the Princess Bride ever re-discover true love?
Once upon a time, there was a movie studio named Metro Goldwyn Mayer, which inherited a film classic: The Princess Bride. Metro Goldwyn Mayer, MGM for short, released the film on DVD with a mere pamphlet back in the year 2000. This upset a lot of people, who felt that the film deserved to be given a better treatment on this new video format. And so a year later, MGM released the wonderfully crafted tale on DVD again; this time the disc came with a good handful of special features like commentary tracks, making-of documentaries, and trailers. Many years passed, and everyone loved the Collector's Edition of The Princess Bride. But MGM still wasn't happy. Then, in the year 2006, MGM decided it was time to remind everyone that The Princess Bride was still a movie worth seeing. They re-released it on DVD, this time in two different double-disc editions: the "Dread Pirate Edition" and the "Buttercup Edition." These discs has lots of special features, including a mockumentary about the Dread Pirate Roberts, a quotable trivia game, and all of the special features from the last release. MGM had finally released the ultimate edition of The Princess Bride, and everyone lived happily ever after…
Or so they thought. Just a year after the spectacular release of the dual two-disc editions, MGM grew restless. Their desire to make more money off of this humble movie increased, and they needed to be satiated. And so, they scratched up a few new special features and released a "20th Anniversary Edition," because everyone was apparently yearning for it…or not. The End?
This latest release of the Rob Reiner classic is truly a mess as far as DVD releases go. The movie is the same as it was on the previous special editions: the script is a perfect blend of fairy tale satire and witty romance, the characters are perfectly cast, and the execution by Reiner is near-flawless. The Princess Bride was originally written as a fake fairy tale novel with notations by William Goldman. While the idea of the book might sound crazy, the idea behind dissecting and parodying the classic fairy tale structure is executed perfectly on screen. The play between Savage and Falk feels natural, and Reiner does a great job framing the Princess story with them. The actual Princess Bride tale in the film moves quickly, jumping from event to event with carefree charm (and some cheesy synth). While the casting is perfect, especially in the bad guy department, the cameos in the film are the cherries on top of the icing. Billy Crystal's "Miracle Max" is priceless. This is a fantastic film that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike—and MGM seems hell-bent on making sure that everyone gets a chance to enjoy it.
In case you still don't own The Princess Bride, and were wondering which version you should purchase, take my word for it: this isn't it. I can't understand how a DVD can be released again and again and not employ the "snowball effect" when it comes to special features. Each new release of a film should do the consumer a courtesy of including the extras from previous releases. Here, MGM managed to create a DVD that has none of the previous content, but instead has three short, inadequate featurettes and a "DVD game" that feels like one of those Flash banner ads promising me a free iPod.
The first featurette on the disc is "Princess Bride: The Untold Tales." MGM wrangled up a bunch of the actors from the movie, including Fred Savage, Christopher Guest, and Chris Sarandon. Together they all reminisce about filming the movie, hanging out on set, and knowing Andre the Giant. The featurette is extremely brief, and because the interviews are edited together with so much footage from the movie, the whole things is ultimately inconsequential.
The second featurette is called "The Art of Fencing," and is an interview with a Hollywood "sword master." This fencing expert addresses the training the actors went through while filming the movie, as well as the basic structure of a sword duel. It's short, but definitely more interesting than the "Untold Tales."
Finally, the third featurette is "Fairy Tales and Folklore," which is a look into the history of fairy tales and a dissection of movie's plot. Again, this was a fairly engaging featurette that only runs about 9 minutes. It is kind of cool to hear about the rules that Goldman chose to use and parody within the realm of fairy tales.
And then there's the game. I'm not sure when developers decided that the DVD format was good for gaming, but I am yet to play a DVD game that's actually fun. The Official Princess Bride Game "True Love and High Adventure" is no exception. It's essentially a Flash animation retelling of a portion of the movie, only with poorly drawn versions of the film's characters. To make matters worse, the game doesn't even use sound clips from the movie, but instead opts for terrible impersonations instead.
The game is broken up in to three mini-games. Depending on how you do on the mini games, you are rewarded with Vizzini's jewels (I don't remember him really talking about jewels in the movie, but okay). At the end of the three games, you get a ranking depending on how many jewels you have. First, there is a Fezzik rhyming game. The bad voice actor reads a line as Andre the Giant, and then you have to pick the icon of the word that rhymes. This felt below a Baby Einstein game. After wading through that, you punch eels in the face while trying to save the Princess Buttercup from drowning. This involves you moving a giant fist around the screen using your remote control, and then hitting the Enter button right when the eel appears. It seemed impossible while I was playing it, but then the DVD said that I won…so I guess I did alright. The last game involves you steering the Dread Pirate Roberts' ship as he chases Vezzini and the gang on the high seas. You just have to use the arrow buttons on the remote to steer left and right to avoid debris. Again, a stupid game that I wound up winning for no reason.
The worst part about all of this, is that this "official game" isn't even the entire game. It's merely a promotional demo for a longer PC game online (the online game wasn't available at the time of this review). So essentially, this entire DVD release was created to promote this video game…that sucks.
This DVD release does have some things going for it. Namely, the logo design on the package is awesome. You might not be able to tell at first glance, but the logo, and the box artwork, is reversible. The whole thing can be flipped upside down and still read "The Princess Bride." Also, it comes with a booklet that retells the story in a basic fairy tale style. It's a nice touch. The video and sound quality is also very good, but I wouldn't think that it has changed much from the last special edition.
Wow, it's pretty bad when the best thing about a DVD release is the logo on the box.
This is an extremely tough call to make if you're a fan looking for the best version of The Princess Bride. The studios tend to make previous versions of the DVDs unavailable when they release a new one, so I would hurry up and try to find one of the older editions if you care at all about having meaningful special features. This latest cash-in by MGM is a complete mess in terms of extras, and really doesn't deserve to be out there.
That said, if special features aren't your thing, then this version of The Princess Bride is as good as any others. The movie is still as classic and hilarious as it has been with every other release.
GUILTY of being a lame re-re-re-release that deserves better.
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Scales of Justice
• "True Love and High Adventure:" The Official DVD Game
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