Was there a hotter studio director in the mid-80s to early 90s than Rob Reiner? His rise-and-fall is a mystery that many cinephiles have conversed about over the years, but why did this once celebrated director become so badly attuned to modern-day filmmaking?
Reiner is now mostly known for vehement anti-Trump political activism, but he was once responsible for churning out "This is Spinal Tap," "Stand By Me," "The Princess Bride," "When Harry Met Sally," "Misery" and "A Few Good Men" within a span of 8 years. All of those are still considered "classics" today, albeit I wouldn't use that term for all of them. Maybe that's the problem. "Misery," "When Harry Met Sally" and "Stand by Me" do feel less impressive today than when they were initially released, it doesn't help, that they have been copied to death both at the movies and, even, on television ('Harry' almost feels like a blueprint for 'Seinfeld').
However, when one looks at the six Reiner classics directed, a thought emerges: they are all drastically different, especially in genre. 'Spinal Tap' is a music mockumentary, 'Stand by Me' is a coming of age movie, 'The Princess Bride' is fantasy with satiric edge, 'Harry Met Sally' is a romcom, 'Misery' is horror and 'Few Good Men' is a political drama. Unheard of, the range that Reiner brought to all of these movies. It's hard to imagine Reiner's output from the last 20 or so years ever being reevaluated as something more than what it is: unequivocal mediocrity. What else do you call "LBJ," "The Bucket List," "Flipped," "The Story of Us," “Alex and Emma,” “Rumor Has It,” “And So It Goes,” “Being Charlie,” “Ghost of Mississippi,” “The Magic of Belle Isle.” These films were directed by the same man who made the aforementioned six influential classics .
There are people in Hollywood that want him to make a comeback and he's been given shot after shot, project after project, but he's been stuck in this rut now for nearly 25 years. You can also blame the fact that he's never really been what you might call an "auteur." There really isn't a personal directorial style to any of his films. A lot of them, as previously mentioned, are just so different. He does comedies like "A Princess Bride" then dramas like a "A Few Good Men". Was that streak of 6 classics just a stroke of luck? Was he just sent the best screenplays available between 84-92? Who knows.
Of course, time will be kind to Reiner, the work he did in those nine years, between 1984 to 1992, is impossible to forget, mostly because, but, my oh my, how the mighty have fallen.