Now that I've seen Quibi's 10-part, seriously charming "Home Movie: The Princess Bride" in its entirety, I'll just say it.
I prefer director Jason Reitman's all-star, multi-auteur, DIY remake of director Rob Reiner's 1987 fantasy to the original. Its whimsy feels lighter, more inventive, less predictable and more humane. The revolving-door ensemble is fantastic, with everybody clearly inspired, whether they're going for quasi-impressions of the original actors or not, by the actors we know from the movie.
For many that movie is a treasure. Screenwriter William Goldman's fairy tale, adapted from his novel, interweaves true love (Cary Elwes and Robin Wright play Westley and Buttercup, sweethearts separated, cruelly); pirates; the snivelling Humperdinck, prince of Florin (Christopher Guest); dashing swordsman Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and chapter upon chapter of peril and adversity.
Individual, shrewdly trimmed sequential chunks of "The Princess Bride" have all premiered individually on the Quibi site, which launched in April. Right now the complete project is available there for binging anytime. Shot piece-by-piece in a variety of celebrity yards, beach houses and kitchens, it's a low-fidelity retelling of the film, where scissors take the place of broadswords and, at one point, Hugh Jackman cameos as Humperdinck, wearing a dim sum tray for a crown. Later on, a corgi sporting a neck pillow essays the role of the Rodent of Unusual Size.
It's nice to see Chicago's own Fred Savage, now in his mid-40s, return to his skeptical-grandson role. He's not the only original cast member to pop up. Some scenes comprise reunions among other ensembles, "The Office" here, "The Lord of the Rings" there.
In the first scene Rob Reiner plays the Peter Falk role, the grandfather reading the "Princess Bride" storybook. The final sequence features Reiner in the grandson role, under the covers, while his father, Carl, seals the deal on the entire project as the grandfather. Like everyone else, the elder Reiner shot his lines on a cellphone camera. He started and finished four days before he died, at the age of 98.
Everyone from Kaitlyn Dever to Jack Black (his salt and pepper beard blowin' up real good) to Sam Rockwell to Lucas Hedges take on the role of the Man in Black, aka Westley. Between Sarah Silverman and Giancarlo Esposito, I can't say who makes a better Grandpa, because they triumph in completely different keys of A(vuncular). There truly is no sense of competition going on here, only fair play and sublime ridiculousness.
Re-creating physical derring-do, involving fire swamps and swordplay, on a no-budget budget offers its own comic rewards. They're the rewards sought and largely found in director Michel Gondry's seriocomedy "Be Kind Rewind." But if that's all there is, why does this much-needed COVID-19 fundraising project, benefiting the World Central Kitchen's hunger relief efforts, strike me not just as a noble venture but Reitman's sharpest work in years? Sometimes a director can rediscover comic instincts simply by taking on a different sort of role, more managing and talent-wrangling, less prescribing. Reitman finds the unity is every participating actor's enthusiasm, and all the gleeful disunity.
Bravo to all, farewell to Carl Reiner, and if you're so inspired, you can help the World Central Kitchen's cause at wck.org.
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