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With: Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Costner, Mark Ruffalo, Shirley MacLaine, Richard Jenkins, Mena Suvari
Written by: T.M. Griffin (Ted Griffin)
Directed by: Rob Reiner
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content, crude humor and a drug reference
Running Time: 97
Date: 12/22/2005

Rumor Has It (2005)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Rumor' Without a Clue

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's hard to remember today just how good Rob Reiner used to be. Rather than an artisan with a singular voice, he proved himself a worthy, traditional studio craftsman, turning in bright, crisp and intelligent films in different tones and genres: This Is Spinal Tap (1984), Stand by Me (1986), The Princess Bride (1987), When Harry Met Sally... (1989), etc.

One can only guess that Reiner has grown comfortable, or perhaps his mind has wandered to politics, or perhaps it's because he took over the project from its original director. Whatever the reason, his newest film Rumor Has It is mushy and bland. It's not necessarily stupid or horrible, but it lacks the sparkle that we once came to expect from Reiner.

Jennifer Aniston plays Sarah Huttinger, a former Pasadena girl now living in New York and writing wedding announcements and obituaries for the Times. Terribly miscast in her last film, Derailed, Aniston is once again relaxed and engaging. She uses her deep, brimming eyes to show pain while the rest of her gives off nervous laughter; she's magnificent.

Sarah suspects that her family may have been the inspiration for both the book and the movie The Graduate. A man called Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner) apparently once slept with both Sarah's grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) and her late mother. And when Sarah flies back to Pasadena for her sister's wedding, she slowly realizes that Beau may in fact be her father.

Sarah's fiancée, Jeff (Mark Ruffalo) doesn't take well to Sarah's flitting off and hanging around with strange, handsome men. It's this character that curdles much of Rumor Has It. Ruffalo essentially plays a female role written into a man's body; he balks at sleeping with his beautiful girlfriend and he spends most of the film whining about why she can't commit.

On the other hand, Costner (who recently won an award for his performance in The Upside of Anger) stands out. Dignity and character have recently caught up to him, and he has finally become a star worth watching. MacLaine strolls through another of her brassy old lady roles, and though it's nowhere near as rich as her In Her Shoes turn, she gets to say things like, "Come on in... I'll put a pot of bourbon on."

Though these people may have enjoyed themselves, Rumor Has It shows an overall carelessness. It's as if Reiner started with The Graduate, took half of it for himself, and re-gifted the rest.

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