Review: ‘When Harry Met Sally…’
[originally published in 7 Days, on July 19, 1989]
Archie Bunker may have called him “Meathead” during his seasons as Mike Stivic on All in the Family, but since becoming a feature film director six years ago, Rob Reiner hasn’t made a wrong move. He began by creatively dismantling one genre—the “rockumentary,” in This Is Spinal Tap (1984)—and went on to enhance every other in which he worked. The Sure Thing (1985) was that rarity, a gotta-get-laid teen comedy with genuine feelings and values. Stand By Me (1986) won sleeper status as a coming-of-age fable that had less to do with hyperactive hormones than with the nature and fragility of friendship and morality. Best of all was The Princess Bride (1987), an exquisite fairy tale (by William Goldman) that succeeded in kidding the genre without betraying its tenderness, beauty, and charm.
There is every reason to expect that the director’s latest, When Harry Met Sally…, will become Reiner’s biggest hit to date. It’s the one laugh-out-loud comedy of the summer so far that won’t leave you feeling embarrassed afterward. It’s also, at the same time, a surefire date movie and just the sort of film some people will make a point of seeing solo or, better yet, with battle-scarred friends of the same gender. Yet for all its pleasures, When Harry Met Sally… suggests more clearly than any of its predecessors the limits of Reiner’s grasp, and perhaps of his reach as well.