The majority of Rob Reiner's films strike a delicate balance between light-hearted comedy and deeper moments of emotion. Films like This is Spinal Tap (1984) and Stand By Me (1986) thrive because they manage to keep the audience laughing while throwing in heartfelt glimpses of relatable, everyday realities without becoming too preachy, overdrawn, or self-insistent. In a New York Times article published in October of 1987, less than a month after The Princess Bride's theatrical release, Reiner discussed how he tries to project himself into the characters in his films, such as the bravery of independent ventures in This is Spinal Tap and the challenge of liking yourself in Stand By Me. About The Princess Bride, he said that "[it's] about true love being the core of everything, and I think I'm more open to that now than I've ever been.'' About his directing style specifically, the film's screenwriter William Goldman said, ''His films have a certain comedy style, coupled with a sweetness and toughness...There's a certain flintiness to [them]. They're funny, but they're not simpy." TV writer and producer Norman Lear, who helped to finance Reiner's first four movies, agreed with Goldman, saying, ''Rob's movies all have a human dearness to them. For example, Spinal Tap could have really savaged the music industry, but instead it was a loving, satirical look at the business.'' The delicate balance between serious and whimsical became something of Reiner's signature tone.
This tone is woven beautifully into The Princess Bride, which relies on telling an epic story of deceit, loss, and hardship through an easy-going lens, one that reminds the audience that it's a parody. IndieWire's Oliver Lyttelton said of Reiner's direction that "the tone [he] strikes—loose, funny, absurd, but still with actual stakes—is pretty much perfection." After all, The Princess Bride sets out with a difficult task: to mock the tropes of past swash-buckling adventure epics while still allowing the audience to experience a new one. Aim for too funny and it comes off as ridiculous and pointless; too serious, and it's rendered auto-parodic and hypocritical. Reiner's genius comes through his ability to steer the film right in the middle with a story that can lean in to our love for absurdity without crashing through it, and then pull back enough to remind us that there are real emotions and real stakes here, ones that we could feel in our (admittedly less dramatic) everyday lives. This, in essence, is how Reiner helped to make The Princess Bride such a critically acclaimed success and lasting cultural phenomenon.