Rob Reiner and William Goldman’s The Princess Bride turns 25 this year and it has received a lovely anniversary Blu-ray release. A modest success during its initial release, the film has only become more popular as the years have worn on. Thanks to home video, repeated airings on cable and the word of mouth of ardent fans, The Princess Bride is now considered to be a classic fantasy film, one that has been passed down (and upward) by generations of fans. In my own life, I introduced the film to my parents, who fell in love with it, and siblings, who have since shared the movie with their own children. In the past five years I’ve watched it with my children and their fondness for The Princess Bride often finds them quoting it back to me.
The film changed many lives, none more so than the actors who starred in it. By their own testimony, The Princess Bride remains one of the most important productions they were ever involved with. The movie really kick started the career of Cary Elwes, who starred as Westley, the farmhand who falls in love with Buttercup, the most beautiful maiden in the land. That maiden was portrayed by a young actress unknown to the world besides those who watched the soap opera Santa Barbara. Her name is Robin Wright, who has since gone on to become a beloved and acclaimed dramatic actress.
The supporting cast in the film included Broadway star (and current star of Showtime’s Homeland) Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya, a master swordsman out to avenge the death of his father; world wrestling star Andre the Giant, portraying a giant of a man with a penchant for rhymes; Wallace Shawn as the criminal mastermind Vizzini; Reiner’s Spinal Tap cohort, Christopher Guest as the sinister six-fingered Count Rugen; and Chris Sarandon as the slimy Prince Humperdinck, a man out to marry Buttercup for all the wrong reasons.
Peppered throughout this fairy tale are wonderful cameos by the likes of Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, Mel Smith and Peter Cook. And who can forget young Fred Savage as the grandson and Peter Falk as his whacky grandfather, the two characters whose scenes introduce us to the wonderful world of The Princess Bride.
The film was shot for a modest budget and ultimately made back its production costs. However, it could have been so much bigger. Unfortunately, the marketing people for The Princess Bride had a hard time figuring out how to market the movie. At one point, Reiner argued with these executives that he didn’t want his film to become another Wizard of Oz. By that he meant a great film that couldn’t find a mass audience, despite positive test screenings. However, the director actually did make another Wizard of Oz, for as that classic film eventually became a film essential through re-releases and the advent of television, The Princess Bride eventually found the same kind of success and is now considered a family classic.
The influence of The Princess Bride has been felt in the 25 years since its release, as movies attempt to mash up adult sensibilities of satire and romantic comedy with childlike fantasy. One film that sticks out in my mind is Ella Enchanted, the 2004 Miramax film starring Anne Hathaway. In this fairy tale film that takes place in a similar era as The Princess Bride, Hathaway stars as Ella, a young woman who’s been given the “gift of obedience” by her screwy fairy godmother (Vivica A Fox). This gift turns out to be nothing of the sort, as Ella must do whatever she is told. When Ella’s father marries a greedy woman with two evil stepdaughters, Ella’s world begins to unravel.
Ella meets a dashing young prince (Hugh Dancy) and they fall in love. Together they encounter elves, attend a giant’s wedding, and end up singing Queen’s “Somebody to Love.” Unfortunately, the prince has an evil uncle (played by Cary Elwes, of all people) who wants to use Ella’s gift to have her do away with his nephew.
On the surface, Ella Enchanted appears to be just another Disney-like princess movie marketed to the same girls who rushed out to see Hathaway in The Princess Diaries. Indeed, I never would have watched the movie if my own daughter hadn’t asked to rent it. However, Ella Enchanted is a fun, musical adventure that succeeds thanks to a witty script, great musical selections and fine acting by Hathaway, Dancy and the huge supporting cast that includes Minnie Driver and Heidi Klum.
Ella Enchanted has just been released in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, providing another opportunity for families to get reacquainted with the film, or for young kids who’ve never seen it to watch it for the first time. Watched back to back with The Princess Bride, there’s no denying that The Princess Bride is the superior film and that its influence is felt on Ella Enchanted. Still, both movies are great entertainment and make for a great double feature for the entire family.