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Sunday, December 25, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Rumor Has It . . . ": Nice try, but it's no "Graduate"

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2 stars


Showtimes and trailer

"Rumor Has It . . .," with Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Costner, Shirley MacLaine, Mark Ruffalo, Richard Jenkins, Mena Suvari. Directed by Rob Reiner, from a screenplay by T.M. Griffin. 97 minutes. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content, crude humor and a drug reference. Several theaters.

A funny idea, alas, doesn't necessarily make for a funny movie. "Rumor Has It ... " bubbles with promise on the page: A young woman (Jennifer Aniston) learns that her Pasadena family is the inspiration for the book and subsequent movie "The Graduate." This means that her grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) is Mrs. Robinson, her late mother is Elaine, and ... who is Benjamin Braddock, the man who slept with both her mother and grandmother, and nearly broke up her parents' marriage?

(OK, before you all head to your e-mail accounts to set me straight on how "The Graduate" really ends — yes, I know that Benjamin really does stop the marriage between Elaine and that country-clubbish guy, and they take off on a bus together. But "Rumor Has It ... " finds this ending inconvenient, and therefore dismisses it as Hollywood puffery. So, in this universe, Elaine Robinson did indeed have a fling with Benjamin, but still married the other guy, had two daughters and died young. Not exactly a recommendation for staying the course.)

So, Sarah (played by Aniston with neurotic charm and a perpetually worried expression) sets off to discover Benjamin Braddock's identity, and rather quickly finds him: Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner), an Internet billionaire with a rakish grin. Questions arise: Is Beau really Sarah's father? Is Sarah — oh, ick — attracted to him? How long will Sarah's saintly fiancé (Mark Ruffalo) tolerate this? And how long will you?

Director Rob Reiner, whose once-light comic touch ("When Harry Met Sally") seems to be disappearing, can't seem to muster up much enthusiasm for the proceedings. This wasn't his project to begin with — screenwriter Ted Griffin ("Ocean's Eleven") was set to make his directing debut, but was replaced by Reiner shortly after production began. (Oddly, he's now credited as T.M. Griffin, and is not mentioned in the film's media kit. There's a story behind this, probably a more interesting one than "Rumor Has It ... ")

Left to their own devices, the cast delivers mostly one-note performances, with only MacLaine really registering. It's another of her salty-old-broad routines, but she does it with such obvious enthusiasm that it's irresistible. In one scene, she hilariously dismisses Ruffalo with an ever-so-tiny wave of the hand; he's so unimportant as to be barely worth the effort.

Nobody's behavior in this movie makes much sense, but by the end everything's nicely tied up in a wedding-themed bow; prettily wrapped and instantly forgettable.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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