It was only a little over a year ago that MGM released its ill-advised gender-split double edition of Rob Reiner's 1987 romantic fantasy-comedy The Princess Bride: a boys' version with blue cover art featuring the male lead in pirate guise, and a girls' version with a pink cover featuring the female lead in pretty-princess mode. The dual edition wasn't just embarrassingly reductive, it was outright dumb, especially since the two discs featured virtually the same contents. The new gender-neutral 20th-anniversary collector's edition might make sense if MGM was trying to gloss over that marketing decision and move on, but if so, why does the big anniversary edition have fewer and lamer features than any version of the disc since the late '80s?
Trappings and packaging aside, the film still holds up relatively well 20 years after its screen debut. Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman (All The President's Men, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid) adapted his own lightly satirical fantasy novel for the screen, sacrificing some of the depth, but leaving in all the most quotable lines and bits of comic business. Robin Wright Penn is overly stiff and mannered as the title character, a beautiful country girl whose romance with devoted farm boy Cary Elwes sets off a series of adventures heavy with comic mugging and goofy one-liners from the likes of Wallace Shawn, Mandy Patinkin, André the Giant, Billy Crystal, and Carol Kane, with Chris Sarandon and Christopher Guest as dastardly schemers. The whole story has an unrepentantly cheesy sense of postmodern self-awareness; it even has a framing story, in which Peter Falk is telling this story to his grandson Fred Savage, who's disgusted at all the mushy stuff and just wants to get on to the derring-do.
The film's look hasn't aged as well as its content; as special effects advance, older fantasy films that relied heavily on plastery sets and claustrophobic sound stages are just going to keep looking cheaper by comparison. But that's part of Princess Bride's charm. The film's enthusiastic performances have always recalled a group of friends putting on a particularly clever school play; now the sets look appropriate to the tone. In another 20 years, the film may look as primitive as a phonograph, but chances are that Elwes and Shawn's battle of wits or Patinkin and André's smart-guy/dumb-guy routine will still be hilarious.
Key features: Generic, super-short featurettes on the film, "the art of fencing," and "fairytales and folklore," plus a truly dire interactive game.