Tuesday, February 12, 2019

You Used to Be Sooooo Good: Rob Reiner

Welcome back to our vaunted Enuffa.com regular feature, You Used to Be Sooooo Good, where I, Justin Ballard and my esteemed associate Dan Moore discuss things that used to be super awesome and now, well, just kinda suck.

There he is.  A former master of cinema.

JUSTIN: This week we'll be discussing the films of director Rob Reiner.  From a well-renowned comedy pedigree, Reiner became famous as Meathead on All in the Family, but made the transition to directing films.  His filmography began with an amazing streak of seven good-to-excellent films, no fewer than four being bonafide cinematic classics.  Just take a gander at his early work.....

This is Spinal Tap (1984) - One of my top five favorite comedies and as you know, one of my most oft-quoted.  Plus as a metal musician I've been through so many similar scenarios as these fools.
The Sure Thing (1985) - Probably the weakest of his early films but still a highly entertaining rom-com that more or less put John Cusack on the map.
Stand By Me (1986) - Based on the Stephen King novella The Body, this is for me the quintessential pre-adolescent movie and the relationships between the four boys echoes pretty much every group of friends I've ever had.
The Princess Bride (1987) - What's not to like about this movie?  It literally has something for everyone, plus the best-ever cinematic performance by a pro wrestler (Andre the Giant).
When Harry Met Sally (1988) - This one hasn't had the long-term appeal for me as the others, but I rewatched it a few years ago and it still holds up as a rare rom-com with both a heart and a brain.
Misery (1990) - Just a really great adaptation of the Stephen King book.  The horror violence is slightly toned down but otherwise it's a pretty perfect movie interpretation.
A Few Good Men (1992) - Arguably Reiner's masterpiece, A Few Good Men was robbed of multiple Oscars as far as I'm concerned.  Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson delivered some of their finest work, and the near-perfect script by Aaron Sorkin provided eminently quotable dialogue that is still part of the American lexicon.

Quite possibly the greatest rock n' roll movie ever.

Reiner could've retired after AFGM and been considered one of the greatest directors of all time......and then he made North, one of the least funny films I've ever had the misfortune to sit through.  He followed that with the well-regarded The American President, which is considered a good film but not on the level of his earlier stuff, and it was only modestly profitable.  Ghosts of Mississippi was next and it flopped hard.  Reiner's career never recovered after that and he has since made a string of middling-at-best romantic comedies and of course the awful The Bucket List, which Roger Ebert watched while undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer, and even HE saw right through its shameless manipulation.

So what happened, man?  How did Reiner go from an undeniably A-list director to a journeyman who churns out paint-by-numbers fluff pieces?

Oh look - the movie that broke everything.

DAN: Rob Reiner has for the better part of the last 20 years made some absolutely dreadful cinematic garbage. Which is a damn shame. Before he abstained from making good movies, he made some of the GREATEST movies you’ll ever see. He had a hand in creating all of the following.

“These go to 11.”

“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

“I’ll have what she’s having.”

“I’m your #1 fan.”


If you call yourself a fan of film, all of those lines should resonate with you. Hell, besides Lucas and Spielberg, I cannot think of any director who has contributed more to the pop culture lexicon than Rob Reiner. Those are all immortal, insanely famous movie quotes, and they’re all from the same director. To have ONE line from an incredible movie you’ve made become a catchphrase is amazing. He’s got about half a dozen.

One of the greatest swordfights in movie history.

It sucks to see his output in the last twenty years reduced to unfunny drivel or schmaltzy, trying-to-make-you-cry cancer movies. SUCKS. Because he was great. All of the movies he directed before 1993 are the kinds of flicks you stop on the dial for when you’re watching television. ALL OF THEM. They’re important movies not only to fans but in movie history. Stand By Me is essentially now the template for all coming of age films. When Harry Met Sally created the rom-com as we know it, and there are oodles of retreads of this still hilarious movie. And many have tried to make the same kind of mixture of smart, funny and magical fairy tale, but nothing comes close to The Princess Bride.  It really is amazing how many of his movies are pop culture icons in certain genres.

Hard to believe Jerry O'Connell ended up the handsomest one.
JUSTIN: It's incredible.  The man was a truly gifted director and knew exactly which projects to choose.  He also worked with two of the greatest screenwriters of the day, William Goldman (Princess Bride and Misery), and Aaron Sorkin (AFGM).  It's like directing North knocked something loose and he was never able to pop it back in.  Or it killed his passion for filmmaking and he was just like, "Eh, fuck it, I'll pick the easiest tripe I can get my hands on and make a quick few bucks."

DAN: I have no clue what happened. Every movie he’s done since then is utterly forgettable. I haven’t even heard of his last few.

    Flipped (2010)
    The Magic of Belle Isle (2012)
    And So It Goes (2014)

No clue what any of those are. None. This is man that went from making literally some of the best movies of his generation to, from what I can infer form those titles, silly rom-coms and children's movies.  It’s a shame too. Sure, his movies weren’t BIG EVENT MOVIES that you waited to see; counted down the days to watch. But you knew when you saw his name on a flick, you were gonna get a good quality film. Now, pure drivel. It’s actually quite similar to Francis Ford Coppola. His resume is amazing in the first half of his career and now…not.  It’s strange.

Apparently Jack Nicholson + Morgan Freeman + Rob Reiner = Crap

JUSTIN: Yeah I haven't seen any of his most recent work except the excruciatingly banal Rumor Has It... (2005), with Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Costner.  Pure twaddle.

And you're right, Reiner's films were never considered "event pictures" but you knew with his name attached that the film would instantly have credibility and be something that was pretty universally appealing.  With the exception of A Few Good Men, they were all pretty small, intimate films that were marketed neither as summer blockbusters, nor as Oscar bait.  They were films that surprised everyone with just how awesome they were.  The Princess Bride wasn't supposed to be this iconic film beloved by all audiences, but it was unanimously praised because it was just that good.  Reiner made great films you didn't see coming a mile away.

Good point about Coppola - perhaps we'll do a future installment about his work.

DAN: As far as rating his films, I wont repeat what Jingles said above as I agree with him (save for The Sure Thing which I’ve never seen) except for one thing: in A Few Good Men, did Col. Jessup have to pay to get into the trial?

JUSTIN: No Dan, they just let him in.

Well that wraps up another bitching session between two grown-ass men who should have way more important things to do with their time.  Join us again here at Enuffa.com for more griping about trivial shit.

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