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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 0%
Just Average41.94%
Pretty Crappy: 22.58%
Sucks: 35.48%

4 reviews, 7 user ratings

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Rumor Has It...
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Sadly, the rumors about this one are all true"
1 stars

In the aftermath of such disasters as “North” and “Alex & Emma,” it almost comes as a shock to realize that Rob Reiner was once one of the more reliably entertaining directors working in Hollywood. This is the man, after all, who made his debut with the instant classic “This is Spinal Tap” and followed it with another flat-out masterpiece (“The Princess Bride”), two top-notch romantic comedies (“The Sure Thing” and “When Harry Met Sally) and a pair of smoothly efficient adaptations of other people’s material (“Misery”and “A Few Good Men”). While a mere hack can occasionally stumble into making a good movie or two, this was a streak that was so strong and sure that I was convinced that his later streak of stinkers was merely a slump that he would eventually pull out from–even in the face of such dregs as “The Ghosts of Mississippi” and “The Story of Us,” I continued to hold out some cockeyed optimism that he would begin to make entertaining films once again.

Having just seen Reiner’s latest effort, “Rumor Has It,” that sense of cockeyed optimism is officially dead and buried. At least some of his earlier failures (especially the bewildering “North”) were so strangely and flamboyantly bad that they wound up being oddly compelling despite themselves. In this case, he has taken a promising premise and a reasonably strong cast and squanders both on a romantic farce that is utterly devoid of humor, romantic chemistry or a pulse. Instead, we are treated to the ghastly sight of good actors delivering bad material with all the enthusiasm of a deer trapped in the headlights of a car. If you didn’t have the credits running at the end, there is no way that anyone could have suspected that the man in charge was the same guy who brought us “This is Spinal Tap.”. Hell, this film is such a drag that it is impossible to believe that the man in charge had enough core competence to figure out how to remove the cellophane from the “Spinal Tap” DVD.

Jennifer Aniston stars as Sarah Huttinger, a young woman currently feeling at odds with her family (a group of Pasadena airheads obsessed with tennis and creature comforts), her job (she writes wedding announcements and obits for the New York Times) and her fiancee, Jeff (Mark Ruffalo). Returning home to Pasadena with Jeff for the wedding of her younger sister (Mena Suvari), Sarah upon a shocking family secret. It seems that about 35 years earlier, her grandmother Katherine (Shirley MacLaine) had a brief affair with a classmate of her daughters, a strapping you buck by the name of Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner). A little later, on the eve of her own wedding, Sarah’s mother ran off to Mexico for a few days before returning to her nuptials. As it turns out, Beau’s roommate in college was a writer named Charles Webb who took this story, changed a few of the details and all of the names and came up with a little book (and later a little film) entitled “The Graduate.” In other words, Sarah’s grandmother is Mrs. Robinson, her late mother was Elaine and Beau was definitely the inspiration for Benjamin Braddock and may have possibly helped inspire Sarah, who was born just under nine months after the wedding, as well.

Under the assumption that Beau somehow holds the keys to both her past and future, Sarah begins to seek him out and discovers that he is some kind of wealthy technological visionary–when we first see him, he is extolling the virtues of this strange new thing called the Internet. (Oh yeah, the film is set in 1997–presumably to make the time-line a little more plausible, though it seems to have been done solely to allow Reiner to work in a joke about the then-anticipated Time-Warner/AOL merger and a brief requiem to the mysteries of Bill Clinton.) Once the question of Beau being her father is quickly disposed of–so quickly that you wonder why it was even introduced in the first place–Sarah becomes the third generation of her family to succumb to his charms, an act that inspires its own set of potentially dire consequences before everyone gets pretty much what they want without suffering too mightily in the process.

The idea of discovering that your family may have inadvertently inspired a well-known bit of American popular culture is not a bad one but one of the biggest problems with “Rumor Has It” is that it takes this intriguing premise and proceeds to do nothing with it. Instead of exploring how messy reality can transform into cinematic myth, Reiner just turns the story into a 96-minute-long sitcom into which he plugs cardboard characters and dialogue so self-consciously “witty” that you keep expecting a laugh track to kick in after every zinger. Of course, that is if we are lucky because there are several scenes here that are so ineptly conceived and staged that you wonder how seemingly competent people could have deluded themselves into bringing them to the screen. An opening scene in which Sarah and Jeff attempt to have sex in a tiny airplane bathroom pales in comparison to a similar bit I once saw in an old “Family Guy” episode (and if you are paling in comparison to the likes of “Family Guy,” you might as well give up and go home). Towards the end, there is another bit in which most of the main characters scream at each other into telephones that is so excruciating to observe that it is like the cinematic equivalent of fingernails on the blackboard. In a film so cut to the bone that what would seem to be important character material (such as Sarah’s alienation from her family and job) has apparently been left on the cutting-room floor, why leave this nonsense in? (To be fair, some of this disconnect may have been the result of the turmoil surrounding the production–screenwriter Ted Griffin was originally set to direct, only to be fired after about a week of shooting and replaced by Reiner.)

At other times, Reiner sets up promising scenes and then blows them so throughly that even the most genial audience members will grow frustrated. There is a scene, for example, at a charity ball in which the group at a table, which includes Sarah and Beau, begin talking about how wonderful the films of the past were and how terrible they are today. At one point, “The Graduate” inevitably comes up and one diner announces that he knows a secret detail behind the history of the film that no one knows about and Sarah and Beau involuntarily flinch. It turns out that the earth-shaking secret is the fact that Richard Dreyfuss made a brief appearance in the film and our heroes look relieved. Wouldn’t it have been a little funnier if the guy had tried to claim that it was his family that inspired the story and the two would either try to keep a straight face at his lies or gently poke holes in his story while keeping their own involvement a secret? I would have preferred something like that to the idiocy of having Sarah point out that one of the guests at the ball (and yes, the charity ball sequence goes on forever) has a tan like George Hamilton, only to be informed that–ha-ha–it really is George Hamilton. (Is this a major motion picture we are watching or an Old Navy commercial?)

Although most of the key performers are either miscast (it is impossible to believe the fatally blah Aniston as the black sheep of her clan when she comes off as more vacuous and self-absorbed than the rest of them combined) or merely going through the motions (Ruffalo once again delivers the laid-back hunk bit that he has been coasting on ever since “You Can Count on Me”), there are two cast members who manages to rise above the material simply by sheer force of personality. The first is Kevin Costner, whose recent reinvention as a reliable supporting player (on the heels of his scene-stealing turn in “The Upside of Anger”) is a welcome sight indeed–you never buy the relationship between his character and Aniston’s but he has enough rakish charm that you can almost understand how he could have wound up in Shirley MacLaine’s bed. Speaking of MacLaine, she is also pretty entertaining to watch simply because of the way that she essentially stomps into her scenes and just dominates them completely. Additionally, she is one of those performers who can take a crummy line (“I’ll put on a pot of bourbon.”) and deliver it in such a way that it winds up sounding a lot funnier than it really is. Sadly, “Rumor Has It” gives her countless opportunities to demonstrate this particular trait.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13669&reviewer=389
originally posted: 12/23/05 00:04:48
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User Comments

6/22/18 Jamie costner old enough to be her father, grandfather? ridiculous. just awful 1 stars
5/24/07 David Pollastrini Aniston is hot in this! 3 stars
3/25/07 Be Fang I really don't like this movie 1 stars
6/25/06 millersxing A promising story wasted in this certified Rob Reiner eyeroller. 2 stars
6/10/06 Monday Morning What a slow, boring, shallow, unfunny, contrived waste of time and money. 1 stars
2/16/06 Soha Molina bad 1 stars
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  25-Dec-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 09-May-2006

  27-Jan-2006 (12A)


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