‘Rumor’ not as juicy as hoped

Reeling it in

Posted: Thursday, January 05, 2006

“Rumor Has It ...”

Warner Bros.

Running time: 1:37

This week’s film is an interesting mix of odd choices and missed opportunities. Still, I had hope: Rob Reiner directing, a great cast including Kevin Costner, Jennifer Aniston and Shirley MacLaine, and an interesting and unique premise. Too bad this quirky tale of a girl who finds out that her family was the inspiration for “The Graduate” never really takes off.

Your first question should be: “‘The Graduate?’” What relevance does that have for today? Did I even see that movie?” Chances are, if you are under 30, the answers to the last two questions are probably: “None,” and, “No, I don’t think I’ve even heard of it.”

For the rest of us, “The Graduate” is a classic dramedy, one that sort of defines the culture clash of the ‘60s, but in case you are one of the uninitiated, here’s a quick summary: Benjamin Braddock is a recent college graduate who falls into a steamy affair with a much older, and very married, woman. To make matters worse, he soon finds himself in love with none other than the older woman’s daughter. And that, plus a bunch of Simon and Garfunkle tunes, is pretty much it.

Now fast forward to 1997, 30 years after the aforementioned movie was released, and the year our current story takes place. The rumor, in the title “Rumor has it ...” refers to the fact that, in Pasadena, Calif., there really is a family that inspired the events just described; that the older woman and the daughter were and are still members of a prominent Pasadena family. The only problem is that no one can agree on which one. Enter Jennifer Aniston as Sarah Huttinger who, while home to attend her sister’s wedding and with her own new fiance in tow, stumbles across the truth. Her grandmother was actually the Mrs. Robinson of myth, which would make her mother, long dead, the object of Benjamin Braddock’s affection.

Except Braddock is just a made-up name. Who is the real Braddock? And how does he relate to Sarah? Off she goes on a whirlwind search, leaving boyfriend and family behind, eventually unearthing Kevin Costner’s Beau Burroughs (B.B. — get it?). Romance ensues, tears follow and personal growth is achieved for all.

But where’s the fun?

What made “The Graduate” good was its nervousness, its oddity. Dustin Hoffman’s sudden awareness of Mrs. Robinson’s seduction is pure gold. “Rumor” has none of that, preferring instead to play it straight down the line. There are almost no references to the original film, other than general description and a couple of S and G songs thrown in. Shirley MacLaine plays a gruff, yet worldly grandmother, but where is the sultriness? Where is the Anne Bancroft her performance so desperately needed? And where, for crying out loud, was the Dustin Hoffman cameo? Nothing.

Reiner has taken a very interesting story, an actual rumor, though this script is pure fiction, and completely clipped its wings. What could have been sharp referential comedy turns into bland romantic comedy with a few references thrown in for good measure. When did Rob Reiner lose his nerve? Sure Jennifer Aniston is cute and personable, just like Meg Ryan in her heyday, and it was nice to see Kevin Costner smile once in a while, but that’s not what sells this film. It’s “The Graduate” that is supposed to sell it, but for some reason the filmmakers refuse to capitalize on the classic. It’s a lightweight kind of cute, but on the whole, “Rumor Has It ...” just doesn’t make the grade.

Grade: C+

“Rumor Has It ...” is rated PG-13 for language and adult themes, including some mildly sexual situations.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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