“Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders – the most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia” – but only slightly less well-known is this: “Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line”!” A lot of films have charm. Don’t get me wrong. But not many oozes pure charm in the way The Princes Bride (1987) does. From start to finish is it filled with some much humor and wit but also so much heart. I can’t imagine how any one couldn’t at least enjoy this film. With its aforementioned humor mixed with heart, The Princess Bride is a movie that I can’t wait to share with any future children I might one day have.
First of all, the framing structure of the film is delightfully unique and funny. The movie begins with a child (Fred Savage) being stuck in bed sick when his Grandfather (Peter Falk) shows up to read him a story. That story being “The Princess Bride.” We then periodically cut back to the grandson and grandfather to hear some funny commentary from the grandson. I just find this framing mechanic to be incredible. The movie would have still been good with out this, if it just started with Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright) and Westley (Cary Elwes) on the farm, but with it the film’s charm is elevated to new heights. The rest of the film is full of witty dialogue and expertly pulled off physical humor. For example, this famous poison wine scene, where Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) tries to deduce what cup Westley poisoned.
Later in the film, when Westley loses all his strength and requires Fezzik (André the Giant) to drag him around, the film’s mastery of physical comedy is in full effect. But with all of this, the film has a lot of heart in it. Yes, the love story at the center of the film is moving but more so, the story of revenge is the true heart of the film. Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) lost his father and has spent twenty years searching for his killer. In the end of the film he gets to confront him. This is where we get the famous repeating of the line “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Patinkin puts on a moving performance and you can feel the hurt and pain when he gives the killing blow and says “I want my father back, you son of a bitch.” I went in expecting a fun comedy and instead now it seems to be raining inside because I’m certainly not crying right now. Regardless, this heartfelt moment helps elevate the film beyond just another ‘80s comedy.
I would also like to take a moment to comment on the casting. It’s near perfect. As you saw in the clip above, Elwes plays a perfect confident swashbuckler type. Shawn was also clearly great in that clip. And, while his involvement did make me have to turn on subtitles, who else could have played Fezzik other than André the Giant? He was the perfect person to play the friendly giant. Billy Crystal and Carol Kane are also great in their short roles as a bickering couple. I could honestly go through the entire cast but who has the time?
I will say, the only thing I didn’t like in the film is that at the end of the climax, Fezzik shows up with horses to aid in the main character’s escape and Inigo says “you finally did something right”. It’s said as if a running thing in the movie is Fezzik messing stuff up. But in the entire movie Fezzik is the most helpful person to everyone. I don’t know, that just kind of bugged me.
One last thing, in the movie there is this exchange:
Fezzik: Why do you wear a mask? Were you burned by acid, or something like that?
Man in Black: Oh no, it’s just that they’re terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.
So, Princess Bride was telling people to wear their mask before it was cool.
Anyway, if you have not, please do yourself a favor and watch The Princess Bride. It is such a delightful, charming, heartfelt, perfectly casted movie. It is available on Disney+ for streaming. I give it 8 misuses of the word “Inconceivable” out of 10.