11 sept. 2015

The Princess Bride (7/10): Inigo Montoya saves the day!

"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."
I know, I picked the most quotable line of this epic fairy tale (sorry for being such a cliche), but it was honestly the scene I enjoyed the most in this movie. Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride is one of his most revered films and it has become a cult favorite over time. I didn’t fall in love with it however, but I can understand the appeal this romantic fantasy has on so many people considering it has it all: a tale of true love, adventures involving pirates, sword-fights, fantasy creatures, and a princess who is forced to marry against her will. The premise is no different from that of your typical damsel in distress fairy tale, but the way the film seems to be mocking and honoring those familiar elements at the same time are what makes it stand out. It has a unique innocent quality to it while remaining funny, charming, and sweet. Perhaps I would’ve benefited from watching this at a younger age, but having waited so long to experience it for the first time was a bit of an underwhelming experience. I wasn’t swept away by its magical and fantastic elements and the love story didn’t stand out from other romantic tales. There are several fun scenes and unexpected character interactions, but during most of the film I felt a bit bored. The satire works in parts and so does the fantasy, but it just felt too familiar to win me over entirely. 

The screenplay was adapted by William Goldman from his own novel of the same name. Although for this film he uses a grandfather (Peter Falk) to narrate the story as he is telling it to his sick grandson (Fred Savage). At first the grandson isn’t too keen about having his grandpa read him a story, especially because it starts off with kissing, but once the adventure begins he’s hooked. There are occasional interruptions that bring us back to the kid’s room, but most of the film takes place in this fantasy land where we are introduced to a very beautiful woman named Buttercup (Robin Wright) who falls in love with her farm boy, Westley (Cary Elwes). The two have found true love, but having no money to marry he embarks on a trip and promises to return to her. Buttercup is shattered when she hears that Westley was killed by a fearful pirate named Roberts. With nothing more to look forward to, eventually she gets engaged with Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) of Florin who promises to turn her into a princess. On the eve of her wedding, Buttercup is kidnapped by a man named Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) and his two hired henchmen, Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) a skilled swordsman who has promised to avenge his father’s death, and the strong but gentle giant Fezzik (Andre the Giant) who really doesn’t know no better. While holding Buttercup ransom and fleeing from the site, they discover that they are being followed by a mysterious man in a black mask. He catches up with them soon and the adventure begins as these men face off with one another and new revelations are made.

Allowing for the story to take place through this narrative style was one of the better decisions because it gave the film its unique dreamy style and it wasn’t necessary to deliver realistic visuals. It was all part of the fantasy, although I would’ve preferred less interruptions, but I guess they had to give Fred Savage and Peter Falk some more lines. The relationship between Elwes and Wright was believable, but it didn’t stand out because it was too familiar. However, they were both the perfect casting choice for these roles. It was Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya who stole the movie for me. I absolutely loved his character and the sword fighting scene was the highlight of the movie for me. It included a brilliant homage to Douglas Fairbanks (which I’m sure gave someone the idea that Elwes would be the perfect choice to spoof his Robin Hood character in a later movie). Montoya was probably the inspiration for Antonio Banderas as well when he was cast to play the Zorro. This character has become an icon and he was the saving grace of the film for me. The rest of the characters were OK, but he stood out. The exception and I think I’m in the minority here was Vizzini. I found Wallace Shawn’s portrayal of him rather irritating and I couldn’t stand him. There is also a hilarious scene with Billy Crystal playing a miracle doctor, who you’d only recognize due to his voice because he is heavily covered in make up to look like an old man. The Princess Bride had its strong moments, but somehow I never managed to fall in love with the fantasy and wouldn’t consider it one of Reiner’s best films. It does prove however what a versatile director he is because the film is very different from his other works. I’m still a bit shocked that the film is so widely loved, but I can’t argue it isn’t a good movie.    

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