This feels like an early blueprint for Pirates of the Caribbean.
Fantasy is such a great genre to play around with because you’re able to run wild with setting and character and The Princess Bride is filled to the brim with colorful characters. The biggest standouts were Andre the Giant and Mandy Petinkin who play Fezzik and Inigo Montoya respectively. At the start of the film, they’re working for Vizzini, played by Wallace Shawn, who kidnaps Robin Wright’s Princess Buttercup in order to start a war. The impression here is that they’re the villains, but as the film goes on, they’re just work-for-hire henchmen with their own motivations, particularly Montoya who’s on a quest for revenge against the six-fingered man who killed his father. “I will go up to the six-fingered man and say, ‘Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die,’ ” says Montoya before he engages with Cary Elwes’ “Man in Black” in a fencing match that’s easily the best set piece in the movie.
The duel doesn’t officially start until five minutes in, which is the amount of time that’s used to establish Montoya’s backstory, but once it gets going, not even a dime squatting 225 pounds could get you to turn away from the screen. As a fan of swordfights, this is equally as exciting as the sequence between Jack Sparrow and Will Turner in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The choreography is in top form and the camera shoots it in wide shots that fully showcases the athleticism of both combatants. Montoya and the Man in Black are equally skilled swordsman and both characters are having fun testing each other’s skill. They’re less interested in killing each other as opposed to engaging in a friendly competition and that’s where the real joy of this sequence comes from. The stakes to save the princess are there, but they’re at least having fun while doing it.
Robin Wright and Cary Elwes are charming as all hell, but in keeping with my Pirates of the Caribbean reference, they’re about as interesting as Will and Elizabeth were in the original trilogy. The plot of The Princess Bride is about Cary Elwes’ Westley setting out to rescue the Robin Wright’s Princess Buttercup from the evil Prince Humperdinck, played by Chris Sarandon. It’s your typical damsel-in-distress situation but it works because of the chemistry and charisma between Wright and Elwes. It’s rather surprising how quickly The Princess Bride establishes their relationship, but it’s functional enough to where you buy what they’re selling because if it were under the hands of lesser actors, this movie would fall apart. For a film titled The Princess Bride, Robin Wright doesn’t do that much here.
Her role is to be the damsel-in-distress, but her character’s the least cool character out of the whole ensemble. Other than agreeing to marry Humperdinck in exchange for Westley’s freedom, Buttercup is rather inconsequential to the story; she’s more of a prop than an actual character. Besides her beauty, what about her made Humperdinck want to marry her? There’s not much character there to make you understand or believe why he’d choose her. My love for blondes knows no bounds, but there’s not much to draw out of this performance other than that true love exists.
The Princess Bride is one of the most wholesome and feelgood movies ever made. It’s packed with a strong ensemble of actors playing a variety of memorable characters who are instantly quotable. The main story is about Buttercup and Westley’s love for each other, but it’s Montoya’s story that makes the biggest impact. He’s charming, honorable, and he has all the best quotes which in turn makes him the true MVP of The Princess Bride. Rob Reiner manages to capture the spirit and essence of a fairytale that pays homage to the genre while also being able to poke fun at it. The set design, characters, and story are all spot on, but The Princess Bride manages to shine because of the sincerity and joy that’s showcased in every facet of its being. In an age of cynicism, The Princess Bride still shows evidence that there is still honor amongst men and that true love still exists.