The Set of 400: #237 – My Favorite Poisonous Battle of Wits

Today! Because you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means –

The Princess Bride (1987)

Directed by Rob Reiner

Starring Cary Elwes (x5), Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Andre the Giant, Chris Sarandon (x2), Wallace Shawn (x2), Billy Crystal, Carol Kane (x2), Peter Falk (x2), Fred Savage, Christopher Guest, Peter Cook, Mel Smith

As perfect a movie with as goofy a framing device as exists, The Princess Bride functions so well as a storybook fantasy, a love story, a swashbuckling, sword-fighting epic, and an out-and-out comedy that maybe the criticism could be that it does too much? Like, doesn’t this one movie seem like it could’ve been a great five season TV show, from, like, Starz? Maybe if it was written today it would be. But don’t give anyone the idea!

But yes, the sweeping tale of Wesley and Buttercup travels to distant lands, encounters monsters and giants and wizards, features much swordplay and vengeance, and is couched in our world, with Peter Falk’s grandfather reading the book to Fred Savage as he’s sick in bed. Why? I’m not totally sure. And I don’t know why it has always bothered me – it’s an intrinsic part of the movie, used to continually break up the action and mood with these cutaway scenes to 1980s Chicago to keep reestablishing the narrative. I know it’s a thing movies do, but I just don’t get why it’s here. Seriously, when you’re watching Princess Bride, are you anxiously awaiting the next smash back to Fred Savage’s “Kissing is yucky” nonsense?

At least he’s dedicated to the Monsters of the Midway. Bear down!

Not when there’s so much Andre the Giant to enjoy! It’s too bad he didn’t go in for comedies right from the get-go – his acting may now be held in the same high esteem as his hilarious co-stars Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Peter Cook. So many great bits and terrific jokes abound, from Wallace Shawn’s genius idiot Vizzini, to Chris Sarandon’s terrifically pompous Humperdinck, to Crystal’s Miracle Max and his sidekick, Carol Kane’s Valerie. Of course, if Andre’s Fezzik isn’t your favorite character (in which case, how dare you), it is probably Mandy Patinkin’s master swordfighter, revenge seeker Inigo Montoya, of the movie’s most famous (and most frequent) quote.

But this movie belongs to our newly inducted Five-Timer in the acting club, the great underrated Cary Elwes! Figure, this is not the flashiest role, as the steady lead of the picture, but it needs to hit a delicate balance between pure comic tomfoolery (he’s half-paralyzed for nearly the entire finale!) and relatable questing hero. If Wesley/Dread Pirate Roberts doesn’t work, this is just a collection of silly characters spouting jokes and craziness – he anchors the film and provides the big beating heart at its center. #351 Liar Liar, #395 Robin Hood: Men in Tights, #350 Bram Stoker’s Dracula, #276 Hot Shots! star, Cary Elwes!

Whither it be the money or the science, Elwes is your man.

Oscar nominated for Best Song, but virtually nothing else anywhere, Princess Bride clearly was not embraced as a full-formed American classic right from the jump. For shame! Let’s at least hand over a Best Unusually Sized Rodent award if nothing else, huh?

Coming tomorrow! l’m not anti-Christ or anti-religion, l just think it’s encouraging that people are leaving the Church and going back to God –

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