One day, this writer is going to pen the definitive book on the career of Rob Reiner, a tome that’ll be called something along the lines of “What The Fuck Happened?” Reiner started out as a sitcom star in the 1970s on “All in the Family,” before switching tracks and becoming, like his father Carl, a director, in the early 1980s. And few directors can match the run of films that Reiner turned out in that decade, with six back-to-back classics in “This is Spinal Tap,” “The Sure Thing,” “Stand By Me,” “The Princess Bride,” “When Harry Met Sally” and “Misery.”
Since then, there were two enjoyable collaborations with Aaron Sorkin, “A Few Good Men” and “The American President,” but otherwise everything since the early 90s have been flat-out disasters, with the likes of “North,” “The Story Of Us,” “Alex & Emma,” “Rumor Has It” and “The Bucket List” stinking up cinemas on their release, and with the exception of the latter, not making a ton of money either.
It’s a truly baffling, fascinating career, one that we’ll never truly understand. This summer’s “Flipped” was thought to be something of a return to form, but the box office receipts suggested that more people worked on the movie than saw it in theaters, and we never caught up with it. Nevertheless, Reiner, undaunted, is talking up a project that he hopes will be his next film, and it’s certainly an ambitious one.
Playbill reports (via a tipoff from Shadow And Act — thanks, guys!) that in a recent interview with Peter Bart — the exact provenance is slightly unclear — Reiner revealed that “The picture that I would love to make, that I’m dying to make… I’ve been lobbying for this since it went on Broadway. There’s a play on Broadway, just recently won a Pulitzer Prize and won a couple of Tonys, called “Next to Normal.””
The show, a rock musical by Brian Yorker and Tom Kitt, opened off-Broadway in 2008, before transferring to Broadway in 2009, picking up, as Reiner suggests, eleven Tony nominations and, somewhat controversially, the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the first musical to win since “Rent.” Unusually for a Broadway show, the story’s pretty dark, revolving around a suburban mother with bipolar disorder. The New York production’s set to close after a hugely successful two year run on January 16th, but a touring version is currently working its way around the country, currently based in LA.
Musicals are seen as one of the great challenges for filmmakers, and it’s a rare director who doesn’t want to tackle one at some stage — Reiner told Bart that “It is a completely and utterly unique project and I’ve been dying to make a musical. It’s done brilliantly and it’s very uplifting.” If this was the Rob Reiner of 1990, coming off a touching coming-of-age drama, a thrilling family film, one of the all-time great romantic comedies and an intense drama, we’d be thrilled, even being unfamiliar with the source material, but we have less faith in the Rob Reiner of 2010.
Having said that, if “Flipped” truly was a return to form, hopefully he’ll continue to get his mojo back on this, or whatever comes next. It all sounds pretty early yet, with no indication that Reiner even has the rights to the project, but he seems to be keen on making it, so we’re sure more news will follow in time.