Rumor Has It... (United States, 2005)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Rumor has it that Rumor Has It… experienced a rocky production history. First-time director Ted Griffin was removed from his position just as production was beginning, necessitating an eleventh-hour change. The cinematographer was replaced, allegedly because he may not have been filming certain cast members in the most flattering manner. And some of the roles changed hands. With all of that instability, it's no wonder that the final production is an unfocused mess, with poor chemistry all around and an ending that's as firm and satisfying as an overcooked noodle. The film's few high points are outweighed and outnumbered by sequences that don't work and cast choices that should have been re-thought.

Although the rumor hasn't spread far and wide, it's suspected in Hollywood circles that the actor-turned-director known as "Rob Reiner" was abducted by aliens and replaced by a doppelganger in 1993. Before that fateful year, Reiner's resume shone with titles such as This Is Spinal Tap, The Sure Thing, Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, and A Few Good Men. Afterwards: North, The American President, Ghosts of Mississippi, The Story of Us, and Alex & Emma. Rumor Has It… indicates that the extraterrestrials have not returned the real Reiner to us.

Rumor Has It… can boast a clever premise. Unfortunately, "clever" is not a word that extends to either the plot or the screenplay. With respect to the latter, one wonders how many of Ted Griffin's words remain. After Reiner replaced him as director, one could assume that some kind of re-write occurred, which could explain the confused and schizoid nature of the script. At any rate, the film postulates that The Graduate was based the travails of a real Pasadena family. Through a series of revelations to tedious to relate, Sarah Huttinger (Jennifer Aniston) learns that her grandmother, Katharine Richelieu (Shirley MacLaine) - presumably not related to Cardinal Richelieu - is Mrs. Robinson. Leaving her lame and clueless boyfriend, Jeff (Mark Ruffalo), in the lurch, Sarah goes in search of Benjamin Braddock. His real name is Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner), a lonely multi-millionaire who admits to Sarah that he slept with both her mother and grandmother. Doing some arithmetic, Sarah wonders whether he might be her father, but he assures her that he is sterile because of testicular trauma suffered while he was in his teens. This opens the door for Sarah to join in a family tradition and have sex with him.

Jennifer Aniston appears to be wandering through this film in a fog. Considering how close it was made to her separation with Brad Pitt, that could explain it, but she radiates no charisma and appears to be going through the motions. Equally lifeless is Mark Ruffalo, who has one scene in which he differentiates himself from the furniture. Together, these two couldn't generate sparks if they were doused in lighter fluid. Kevin Costner displays the same kind of unforced charm he exhibited in The Upside of Anger (as an actor, there's no doubt that he has grown with maturity), but his scenes with Aniston are equally devoid of chemistry. Another bright point is Shirley MacLaine, whose acerbic turn as Katharine offers plenty of attitude and barbed one-liners, but she's only in about a third of the movie.

In the end, I couldn't figure out what the movie was about or what it was trying to do. Was it about Sarah's voyage of self-discovery? If so, she appears no better off at the end than at the beginning, still unable to be by herself. Is it a romance? If so, why are the pairings so lifeless? The most intriguing characters, Katharine and Beau, are left half-developed. We get the sense that both have unhealed wounds. Sarah comes across as a whiner and a manipulator. By the closing credits, we don't really want her to find happiness, not even that of the pseudo-reality that seems to come her way.

Rumor Has It… offers a few laughs to go along with fine performances by Costner and MacLaine, but those are all the bullets it has in the chamber. It's a waste of time, although not a painful one. Warner Brothers claims to be releasing the film during the Christmas movie season because it's the perfect time of the year for this kind of story. Actually, this feels more like a theatrical dump, designed to get another high-profile dud off the shelves. Rumor has it that this title will be on DVD around the time that the spring thaw arrives.

Rumor Has It... (United States, 2005)

Director: Rob Reiner
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Costner, Shirley MacLaine, Mark Ruffalo, Richard Jenkins, Mena Suvari
Screenplay: Ted Griffin
Cinematography: Peter Deming
Music: Marc Shaiman
U.S. Distributor: Warner Brothers
Run Time: 1:37
U.S. Release Date: 2005-12-25
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Sexual Situations, Nudity, Profanity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1