The memorable magic of ‘The Princess Bride’

Monday, January 13, 2020 - 2:12pm

NOSELL

20th Century Fox

A number of movies could have quote-along showings with packed theaters full of diehard fans following along to every line of the film. But, from my experience, most of those aforementioned movies are part of some epic saga or franchise that has a hardcore fanbase — “The Avengers,” “Star Wars" and other major movie franchises. 

Which is great, of course (full disclosure: I am one of the diehard fans that could quote every line of “The Avengers”). But there are few movies outside of this category that can fill theaters with fans eager to relive the film with the characters. One of those rare movies is without a doubt Rob Reiner’s (“When Harry Met Sally”) “The Princess Bride.”

I went to the Michigan Theater’s “Princess Bride” quote-along, not really knowing what to expect. Maybe a few people shouting out “inconceivables” or “as you wishes” and the occasional “my name is Inigo Montoya.” That’s not what I got.

I got a packed theater, full of people who hadn’t just seen “The Princess Bride” once or twice before, but people who had the movie almost entirely memorized. People were following along with the characters’ lines, making jokes to one another from opposite ends of the theater and absorbing this movie that is so undeniably loved.

The thing about “The Princess Bride” is that it is an entirely new level of ridiculous. A prince named Humperdink (Chris Sarandon, “Fright Night”), a bizarrely gentlemanly sword fight, the notion of being “mostly dead”? None of these things strike anyone as being normal by any means, and in most other cases, details like these would be out of place. But in this movie, they’re perfect. This movie is unlike any other because the crazy, unbelievable moments complement the heartwarming scenes so well. 

To put it simply, for every scene where Buttercup (Robin Wright, “Forrest Gump”) literally flings herself down a hill in pursuit of Westley (Cary Elwes, “Saw”) — which is without a doubt one of the funniest (and most quotable) scenes in the movie — there is another scene where Westley jumps into quicksand without hesitation to save her. Every laughable moment has a lovable moment to match it.

The audience at the quote-along knew that. They knew to laugh when Vizzini (Wallace Shawn, “Toy Story”) “out-thought” Westley, they knew to boo the moment Prince Humperdink appeared on screen and they knew to cheer when Inigo (Mandy Patinkin, “Wonder”) finally avenged his father. They didn’t just quote the scenes; they matched Vizzini’s every lisp, Fezzik’s (André the Giant, “The Six Million Dollar Man”) gruff but sweet tone and the lilt of Inigo’s Spanish accent. They didn’t just know the movie; they were acting it out just as well as the characters were.

The bizarre and completely unrealistic moments in “The Princess Bride” would annoy movie watchers for just about any other film, but not this one. Those details are what make the movie what it is: an absolutely iconic film that nearly the whole world has seen. This isn’t the kind of film you can just walk away from and forget. You remember it. Not just the “as you wishes,” but the whole beautifully constructed story. And because it has become one of those movies that everyone has seen and loved, it can have a quote-along that is enormously successful. “The Princess Bride” draws in people who have seen it before but are willing to see it again because they just love it that much. Not many other films can do that. This one is special.