Dislike this movie? Inconceivable!
In honour of the recent passing of author William Goldman, this week’s Wayback Wednesday is dedicated to one of his most memorable works, as well as a movie I watched the shit out of when I was a kid: The Princess Bride (1987). I’m so freaking excited.
I’m just saying, I played Prince Humperdinck in my high school’s production of The Princess Bride, so I feel very attached. Speaking of, while it’s been in production for years, there is still no official stage show of this movie. Still no stage show? Inconceivable! Okay, I swear I’ll take it easy on the jokes that are just lines from the movie. The movie begins with a grandfather reading the story, “The Princess Bride,” to his sick grandson. From there, The Princess Bride tells the story of Westley, a farmhand turned pirate who sets out on an adventure to save his true love Buttercup from marrying the villainous Prince Humperdinck, making companions of the swordsman Ingio Montoya, and the giant Fezzik, along the way. This movie you guys. This movie has EVERYTHING.
Passionate romance? CHECK.
Fantastical adventure? CHECK.
Side-splitting humour? CHECK.
While it’s always amazing when a movie is able to mix all of those elements together successfully, what’s so great about The Princess Bride is that it does so in a way that just feels effortless. First of all, I love that the movie just jumps right in. Immediately it sets the scene of the gruff grandfather who’s going to tell this story to his opinionated grandson whether he likes it or not. Then within the first ten minutes we’re shown the beginning of Westley and Buttercup’s epic romance, how she ends up lovelessly engaged to Humperdinck, and get introduced to Inigo, Fezzik, and Vizzini. Not talk more about Vizzini? Iconce…nope, too much.
The movie’s pacing is lightning-fast, setting up who the characters are and what their motivations are with such ease, that it really feels like you’re watching a well-crafted, veteran stage show. Did I mention that I desperately want to see this performed on stage? Broadway, I’m available to reprise my role of Humperdinck, ready when you are. If it ever does make it to the stage, you have to cast Wallace Shawn as Vizzini. There’s no way someone else can bring the same level of manic, egotistical, smugness that Shawn brought to the role. Each character is interesting and lovable in their own way, but I think what’s made these characters live on in people’s hearts for the last 30 years are the actors who brought them to life. Could you really imagine the word “inconceivable” in any other voice than Shawn’s? Side note, I’ve always loved Wallace Shawn. Toy Story (1995) and Clueless (1995)? Forget about it.
I have a theory that in the original script, Inigo Montoya wasn’t written as a very comedic character. I feel like he was originally supposed to be more of an homage to the swashbuckling Errol Flynn movies of the golden age of Hollywood, but Mandy Patinkin’s charisma and energy transfigured Inigo into this fun, scene-stealing character. Patinkin is so memorable and so fantastic in the role, you almost wish that Inigo was the main character. Oh my God, that scene towards the end where Inigo defeats Count Rugen and avenges his father? EVERYTHING. It’s such an epic and satisfying scene that’s made all the more pleasurable by the determination and drive that Patinkin brings to his most iconic character. And the repetition of “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die,” as he inches closer and closer to victory? I repeat, EVERYTHING.
Speaking of, a movie is lucky if it spawns one iconic catchphrase or line, this movie gets to boast three: “inconceivable,” “hello, my name is Inigo Montoya…,” and “Westley’s, “as you wish.” Westley. He’s a real movie hero the likes of which we don’t really see on the big screen anymore. It feels like movie heroes these days have to have quippy one-liners, be an “everyman” character, and stumble their way into heroism. Being comedic and relatable are well and good, but a small part of me misses when movie heroes used to take situations seriously and have s stronger focus on their goal. Similar to Patinkin, Cary Elwes brings a level of heightened determination to Westley so much that you get the sense he’ll die if he doesn’t reunite with Buttercup. Westley is the dashing rogue that used to exist in the adventure movies of yesteryear that really gave fantasy movies a sense of fantasy. Where else do you see a man so driven by reuniting with his true-love that he’ll endure years of distance, swamps of fire, thieves, and a castle full of guards? It’s swoon-worthy. Also, his repartee with other characters is so intelligent and well-written that you can’t wait for his next line.
So, Robin Wright’s English accent is horrendous and obviously fake, but she’s so beautiful and stoic as the fiery Buttercup, that you can overlook it. Also, I never realized until this viewing, but Buttercup doesn’t get much to do. She doesn’t get to plan her own escape, or contribute to the master plan, or even have a funny one-liner. Unfortunately she really is just the damsel in distress whose role is to be either rescued or admired for her beauty. I still went “YASSS,” when she came on screen though. A) because she’s so charming in the role, and B) I know how fucking ferocious and badass she can be. Cough, Wonder Woman (2017), cough.
In its portrayal of female characters the movie is horribly dated, but the comedy? Holds. Up. To. This. Day. It’s so fucking funny. The comedy is so sharp, witty, and quick to poke fun at the genre, that it reminds me of a Monty Python sketch. Most of the comedy is courtesy of the trio of Westley, Inigo and Fezzik where the former plays the straight man to the hilarity of the latter two, but the best comedic scene comes from the brilliant Billy Crystal and the impeccable Carol Kane as Miracle Max, and his wife Valerie, respectively. God, it’s so short and yet so memorable that it’s honestly the part in the movie I always look forward to the most. If they had been in the movie for longer than their one scene, they probably would have stolen focus and you’d have forgotten about Westley and Buttercup. The genius mind of director Rob Reiner was clearly like, “these two are comedy gold. I’m going to use them once, but it’s going to be one of the best scenes in my already near-perfect movie.” I love Billy Crystal and Carol Kane. “Humperdinck! Humperdinck! Humperdinck!”
Dear Hollywood: I’m warning you right now. This movie is the perfect blend of comedy, adventure, and romance, so I beg of you, leave this 80s classic alone. Not every movie from that decade needs to be remade. This nasty habit needs to stop. I promise you, the more iconic the original is, the worse the remake will be. Cough, Ghostbusters (2016), cough. If anything, I’d be down to see a prequel that shows how Fezzik and Inigo became friends and ended up in the service of Vizzini. Can’t you see it? A giant and a swordsman on an adventure across a magical land as their differences blossom into a deep-rooted and hilarious friendship? You’re welcome.
Side note, I realize I hardly talked about Prince Humperdinck (despite my connection to him) but that’s because here’s all you need to know: He’s basically Lord Farquaad from Shrek (2001).
Are you a fan of The Princess Bride? Would you be into an Inigo and Fezzik prequel?
Let m know in the comments or on social media!