Is this article completely irrelevant and outdated? Absolutely. Am I writing it anyway? Of course.
What is Home Movie: The Princess Bride?
Remember fifteen-ish years ago, at the beginning of the pandemic, when all those celebrities collaborated on a cover of John Lennon’s Imagine, and everyone hated it? Well, Quibi did something similar, but since it was Quibi, no one cared. When Quibi officially announced its shutdown about a month ago, I got the free trial, because why not? I was curious to see whether this colossal failure had actually deserved to die. The first “film” I ended up watching was Home Movie: The Princess Bride. Like the infamous cover of Imagine, Quibi’s Home Movie: The Princess Bride is a film made entirely by celebrities (specifically actors) shooting themselves from home during the pandemic, using only their phones. However, unlike the infamous cover of Imagine, Quibi’s Home Movie: The Princess Bride is pretty freaking fantastic.
Directed by Jason Reitman, Home Movie: The Princess Bride is a direct remake of Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride from 1987, which was itself an adaptation of William Goldman’s 1973 novel. William Goldman wrote the screenplay for the original adaptation and, as it turns out, he also wrote the screenplay for the 2020 adaptation; not one line, not even a single word from the 1987 film is removed or altered in any way (it is, however, split into ten chapters). What Jason Reitman does instead of playing with the script is play with the cast. There are ONE HUNDRED SEPARATE PERFORMANCES in this film, and they’re given by recognizable stars for the most part! Actors inhabit the roles originated by Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, etc. for one scene or even just one line before being swapped out by another performer. As you can imagine, it was only natural that I began to compare the different performances to each other; this list is what resulted.
The following ranking is the most subjective and arbitrary thing you will ever see in your life, or at least this week. Now, almost all rankings of art are arbitrary, and they certainly are all subjective, so this shouldn’t be a surprise. But I feel obligated to make sure you know that this really is stupid. There are a several subconscious factors why it ended up the way it did:
- Whether or not I am already a fan of an actor
- Whether or not I am a fan of the character the actor plays
- The actor’s screentime, as well as what scene or lines they perform.
- Performers are likely to be ranked right next to other actors who are in the same chapter, or playing the same character.
- If the actor is genderbending, I likely ranked their performance a little higher than if they had played it straight.
- To be completely honest, I might’ve ranked certain performers higher or lower based on their ethnicity or natural accent.
Again, take everything with a grain of salt, as we all should with all art criticism. I encourage you to [somehow] watch this [completely unavailable] film for yourself, to see what you think. With that out of the way, enjoy the list:
100. Angela Kinsey as Vizzini (Chapter 3)
Kinsey’s is perhaps the only performance I had a negative reaction to; she’s just trying way too hard.
99. Oscar Nuñez as Indigo Montoya (Chapter 3)
98. Finn Wolfhard as Indigo Montoya (Chapter 4)
97. Fred Savage as The Grandson (Chapter 1)
Savage is the only cast member to return and play the role they originated. Unfortunately, his only job is to pick up a book and look bored, so I’m afraid he wasn’t able to shine as brightly this time around.
96. Jason Segel as Fezzik (Chapter 2)
95. Annabelle Wallis as Princess Buttercup (Chapter 1)
94. Chris Pine as Westley (Chapters 1, 5)
93. Hugh Jackman as Prince Humperdink (Chapter 1)
92. Mackenzie Davis as Princess Buttercup (Chapter 2)
Okay, while Davis unfortunately doesn’t get much more to do than look frightened, I must say that she looks uncannily like Robin Wright. If they had made your typical remake, Davis would’ve been a great choice.
91. David Spade as The Man in Black (Chapter 4)
90. John Malkovich as The Priest (Chapter 9)
89. Nick Kroll as Fezzik (Chapter 2)
88. Rob Reiner as The Grandfather (Chapters 1, 2)
87. Brandon Routh as Westley (Chapter 6)
86. Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Westley (Chapter 7)
85. Courtney Ford as Princess Buttercup (Chapter 6)
84. Sophie Turner as Westley (Chapter 6)
83. José Andrés as Prince Humperdink (Chapter 7)
82. Penélope Cruz as Prince Humperdink (Chapter 9)
What is she doing??? It’s kinda funny, actually.
81. Kimberly Brook as Princess Buttercup (Chapter 9)
80. Nick Kroll as Vizzini (Chapter 2, 3)
79. Nick Kroll as Indigo Montoya (Chapter 2)
78. Alice Oswalt as Princess Buttercup (Chapter 4)
Patton Oswalt’s daughter is absolutely adorable.
77. J. K. Simmons as The Grandfather (Chapter 2)
76. Sam Rockwell as The Man in Black (Chapter 5)
So, here’s an interesting take, one which I subscribe to: Home Movie: The Princess Bride is better than The Princess Bride. This seems like sacrilege to say; The Princess Bride has long been touted as one of the precious films that “no one could ever remake.” But it’s true. In fact, here’s something even more controversial: I’m not a huge fan of The Princess Bride. While yes, it is one of those perfect screenplays, it’s too perfect. The film is so straightforward, unsurprising and earnest in every way, the result is that I’m impressed not once while watching it. Yes, its superficiality is deliberate, but just because it’s a choice doesn’t mean it’s good. Every now and then there’s a good line, but other than that? Eh, it’s cute, I suppose.
75. Meredith Salenger as Count Rugen (Chapter 9)
74. Leslie Bibb as Princess Buttercup (Chapter 5)
73. Jenny Ortega as Princess Buttercup (Chapter 6)
72. Natalie Morales as Indigo Montoya (Chapter 10)
71. Jennifer Garner as Princess Buttercup (Chapter 7)
70. Catherine Reitman as Fezzik (Chapter 9)
69. Catherine Reitman as Indigo Montoya (Chapter 9)
68. Craig Robinson as Fezzik (Chapter 8)
67. Joe Jonas as Princess Buttercup (Chapter 6)
66. Nicholas Braun as The Albino (Chapter 7)
65. Zoe Saldana as Princess Buttercup (Chapter 7)
64. Roman Mars as The Grandfather (Chapter 8)
The only cast member to never be seen; Mars provides narration, and he’s got a great voice.
63. King Bach as Vizzini (Chapter 4)
I think it’s amazing that an actor who got his start on the Vine app, which featured 6-second videos and also failed after a very brief period (RIP Vine), is in this Quibi film. He’s quite good too, and delivers the third-best Vizzini performance (in his signature style, obviously).
62. Retta as The Mother (Chapter 1)
61. Common as Westley (Chapter 1)
Alonso Duralde and Dave White don’t like Common as an actor for some reason. Why not? Have they not seen The Hate U Give? Anyway.
60. Richard Speight Jr. as Fellin (Chapter 8)
59. Josh Gad as The Grandson (Chapter 1)
58. Jack Black as The Man in Black (Chapter 3)
57. Lucas Hedges as Westley (Chapter 6)
56. Robert Wuhl as The Grandfather (Chapter 8)
55. Sarah Silverman as The Grandfather (Chapter 7)
54. Keegan-Michael Key as Indigo Montoya (Chapter 8)
53. Zoey Deutch as Fezzik (Chapter 10)
52. Leo James Routh as The R.O.U.S. (Chapter 6)
Again, the kids are absolutely adorable in this.
51. David Burtka as Princess Buttercup (Chapter 5)
So how is Home Movie: The Princess Bride better than The Princess Bride? To reiterate, where The Princess Bride fails for me is in its lack of depth. What Home Movie: The Princess Bride does is the perfect response to such triviality: it examines it. By taking an identical script and giving it to dozens and dozens of different performers, the film allows the material to be re-interpreted over and over. Oftentimes, the performers’ race, gender, or sexuality don’t match the character from the original’s; what does that mean? Why wasn’t Buttercup Black? Why did the film center around a straight romance? In other words, why is The Princess Bride considered the ultimate fairy tale, when its perspective/representation is so limited? These are the kinds of questions one is invited to ask themselves while watching this film.
50. Tommy Dewey as Westley (Chapter 8)
49. B. J. Novak as Count Rugen (Chapter 6)
48. Oliver Lennon as Count Rugen (Chapters 4, 5, 7)
Oliver Lennon, yet another adorable child, got the most appearances out of any actor. He deserved it; his bugle skills are second to none.
47. Thomas Lennon as Prince Humperdink (Chapters 4, 5)
46. Shaquille O’Neal as Fezzik (Chapter 8)
45. James Van Der Beek as Prince Humperdink (Chapter 9)
44. Jon Hamm as The Man in Black (Chapter 4)
Jon Hamm performs the famous ‘battle of wits’ scene. He gets bonus points because the glass he drinks out of is a Hamm’s Beer shot glass.
43. Patton Oswalt as Vizzini (Chapter 4)
Whoever was doing the camerawork for Oswalt did a hilarious zoom-in when Vizzini keels over and dies. Excellent job.
42. Joey King as The Grandson (Chapter 8)
41. Keith L. Williams as The Grandson (Chapter 5)
40. Giancarlo Esposito as The Grandfather (Chapter 5)
39. Uncredited Kid as A Soldier (Chapter 6)
For some reason, they never credited this kid, even though he’s given 2 whole seconds of screentime, which was more than some of the others on this list got. He’s brilliant; his bow-and-arrow-on-a-skateboard bit is fantastic.
38. Logan Kim as The Grandson (Chapter 7)
37. Brandon Routh as Princess Buttercup (Chapter 6)
36. Charlize Theron as Fezzik (Chapter 9)
Hilarious André the Giant impression.
35. Zoey Deutch as Princess Buttercup (Chapter 10)
34. Brian Baumgartner as Fezzik (Chapter 3)
33. Tiffany Haddish as Princess Buttercup (Chapter 1)
32. Zazie Baetz as Princess Buttercup (Chapters 1, 2)
The move with the water/tears is worthy of a chef’s kiss.
31. Don Johnson as Prince Humperdink (Chapter 10)
30. Bryan Cranston as Count Rugen (Chapter 10)
This man had NO respect for his chandelier, my WORD.
29. Ernie Hudson as Prince Humperdink (Chapter 8)
28. Penélope Cruz as Princess Buttercup (Chapter 9)
27. Andy Serkis as Count Rugen (Chapter 7)
Putting Serkis alongside Elijah Wood was such a genius move. From here on out, all of the performances are genuinely great.
26. Pedro Pascal as Indigo Montoya (Chapter 2)
Another reason why this film exceeds its antecedent lies in is its zero-budget filmmaking. Home Movie: The Princess Bride is peak amateur production value. Everyone is shooting wherever they happen to be quarantining with the help of no one but those living with them. Props/costumes consist of whatever is lying around. When it’s too hard to recreate a shot, LEGO buildings and minifigures stand in for the castles and actors. And the score is clearly just people on a synth piano. It’s childish.
But then why does it work? Well, let’s look at another film for a second. Mayroun and the Unicorn, from directors Nadine Labaki and Khaled Mouzanar, is a short film on Netflix that was also made during the pandemic. The film is just a shot of a little girl in an office making up a story, with some filters and sound affects added in post. It’s pure creation; everything is going on inside the girl’s head, and yet we experience the story just as viscerally. This is because we’re forced to imagine what she sees by virtue of the lack of production value. The same is the case with Home Movie: The Princess Bride. Gone are the picturesque vistas from The Princess Bride; all we have now is our own imagination. Isn’t that more fitting for a film about a bedtime story?
25. Stephen Merchant (Chapters 7, 8)
24. David Oyelowo as Prince Humperdink (Chapter 6)
23. John Cho as Indigo Montoya (Chapter 9)
22. Cary Elwes as Prince Humperdink (Chapter 10)
Very fun. Was glad to see him back.
21. Dennis Haybert as Prince Humperdink (Chapter 8)
20. Courtney Ford as Westley (Chapter 6)
19. Neil Patrick Harris as Westley (Chapter 5)
Gay kiss (again)!!!
18. McKenna Grace as The Grandson (Chapter 2)
17. Sarah Cooper as Indigo Montoya (Chapter 8)
Ironically, the pandemic has been the best thing to ever happen to Sarah Cooper’s career. Thanks to her amazing lip-syncing parodies of 45, she’s got a freakin’ Netflix special! And of course, her physical comedy is lovely here.
16. Elijah Wood as Prince Humperdink (Chapter 7)
His eyes. His little smile. So creepy.
15. Jennifer Garner as The Ancient Booer (Chapter 7)
14. Paul Rudd as Westley (Chapter 10)
13. Rob Reiner as The Grandson (Chapter 10)
Get ready for the waterworks…
12. Ari Gaynor as Valerie (Chapter 9)
11. Dave Bautista as Fezzik (Chapter 4)
10. Beanie Feldstein as Princess Buttercup (Chapter 8)
Feldstein is one of the coolest young actors working today. Here, she brings an unironic power and grace to Buttercup with her speech attacking Humperdink. This same grace makes it all the more amusing when she is “dragged” by Humperdink immediately following the speech, which Feldstein recreates by miming being pulled by someone.
9. Kaitlyn Dever as The Man in Black (Chapter 4)
The other half of my favorite comedy duo from 2019, Dever gets to do some swordplay! The verve with which she swacks a plastic sword around while maintaining such a stupid poker face is so endearing. And her cartwheel is…well, she tried.
8. Percy as The R.O.U.S. (Chapter 6)
How could the dog not get a place in the top ten? Percy, who belongs to Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas, licks/”bites” his victims with true ferocity, and his death is spectacular. How Percy has not yet been given an honorary César, I do not know.
7. Rainn Wilson as Vizzinni (Chapter 2)
Wilson knows he’s amazing in this, and that normally might be a turn-off. But instead, you welcome it. I’m not even a fan of The Office, but it’s still impossible not to grin at his nasal-y yet subtly hoarse screaming.
6. Seth Rogen as Miracle Max (Chapter 9)
Upon reflection, Rogen seems the blatantly obvious choice for Miracle Max. It doesn’t mean that it’s the wrong one, though! After all, Seth Rogen is the Werner Herzog of his generation, an evolution of the philosophy of Terrence Malick, and perhaps the true successor to Jean-Luc Godard. In other words, Rogen goes full Rogen here, complete with a puppet Westley. His fight with Ari Gaynor as Valerie is so good it felt like they actually were in the same room.
5. Taika Waititi as Westley (Chapter 9)
What is there to say besides Taika is the absolute best when he plays Taika? I mean, he’s playing Westley, but really, Taika’s playing Taika playing Westley. It was the correct choice to give him the scene where Westley is paralyzed, because Taika pushes the droopiness to the max. Also, he did some wonderful drawings of Indigo Montoya and Fezzik for their cardboard cutout stand-ins.
4. Adam Sandler as The Grandfather (Chapter 1)
If Uncut Gems and Punch-Drunk Love didn’t exist, I’d be tempted to say that this is Sandler’s best performance. His gravely voice and fedora are perfectly in sync with The Grandfather’s vibe.
3. Diego Luna as Indigo Montoya (Chapter 3)
I love Diego Luna so much. It was actually really funny when he showed up, because Luna wears an almost identical outfit to the one he wore when his character first appears in Woody Allen’s A Rainy Day in New York. Thankfully, he’s not playing a Lothario here. His umbrella swordplay is adorable, and his smile is irresistible.
2. Javier Bardem as Indigo Montoya (Chapter 10)
What a performance. Recreating what is easily the best scene in the original film, Bardem gets to say that iconic line “Hello. My name is Indigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Bardem sells it so hard, and he pulls it off magnificently. But the best part about his scene is that in practically every shot, his sword is a different object: a baguette, a dust swiffer, a foam toy, etc. Priceless.
1. Carl Reiner as The Grandfather (Chapter 10)
Was there any way Carl wasn’t gonna be my number one? No, no there wasn’t. Carl Reiner plays The Grandfather in the last scene of the film, playing opposite his son Rob, the director of the original The Princess Bride, as The Grandson. Carl shot the scene three days before he passed. When he looks into the camera at the very end, smiles, and says the final “As you wish,” there is no way you don’t get choked up (I’m choked up as I write this). Farewell, Carl Reiner. Thank you for your stories.
A Final Word
Home Movie: The Princess Bride, I must clarify, is not a takedown of The Princess Bride. It is not trying to subvert it or be better than it. What this film is, more than anything else, is a celebration. A celebration of the original film, the love it inspired, and the legacy it gained. What I am simply trying to highlight with this piece is that the myth that The Princess Bride was untouchable was, of course, false. No film is untouchable because no film has a monopoly on perspective. There will always be a new way to tell any story; the hope is that the new way will have something valuable to say. Home Movie: The Princess Bride does have something to say. By interrogating the idea of perspective, it provides a refreshing and ultimately much more satisfying exploration of fantasy, romance, and adventure. And by showing us a bunch of famous people through the same pixel-y lens that we see ourselves through, we understand that the real movie stars are the friends we made along the way 😛
Thank you for reading! Did you see Home Movie: The Princess Bride? Comment down below!
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