'Rumor Has It ...'

You may have heard that "Rumor Has It ..." is a sequel of sorts to "The Graduate." It is not. It wants to be a kind of sister picture to it -- a companion piece that reflects the plotline of Mike Nichols' seminal 1967 film through a contemporary sensibility that incorporates the impact of the original film on two generations of moviegoers. It is not that, either.

Set in 1997, "Rumor Has It ..." casts Jennifer Aniston as Sarah Huttinger, a newly engaged young woman who, on the day of her younger sister's wedding, discovers that her family inspired several of the characters in Charles Webb's original novel -- which, if we go by Nichols' movie, would make her late mother Katharine Ross, and her grandmother Anne Bancroft, although this movie's Mrs. Robinson is played by Shirley MacLaine.

One thing leads to another, and Sarah's own pre-marital jitters -- she's not sure whether her perfectly nice fiancé (Mark Ruffalo) is really the man for her -- lead to a search for the man who she believes might be her real father, a guy named Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner), who was a school chum of Webb's and much more than that to Sarah's mom some nine months before she was born.

The idea that Sarah is repeating her mother's trajectory with the same man is dramatically intriguing, but the notion that Beau might also be Sarah's father is positively icky. And even though "Rumor Has It ..." settles that question pretty quickly, the movie is also willing to dangle the incest card for a cheap joke a number of times afterward.

That's probably the work of Rob Reiner, who parachuted into the project after screenwriter Ted Griffin was removed from the directorial chair a few days into shooting. What Griffin's version might have been, we will never know, but Reiner's is a snide and facile thing.

Reiner -- who's become an incredibly sloppy hack over the past decade -- is caught between his impulse toward lazy pandering and his desire to burnish his legacy as a serious filmmaker. So he's loaded up "Rumor Has It ..." with visual signifiers borrowed from Nichols' movie, and underscored the action with new songs by Nellie McKay, who is a very talented artist, but not the kind of writer who can produce a single to rival Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson."

Ultimately, though, this new movie doesn't have anything to say about life or love that "The Graduate" didn't offer nearly 40 years ago. All it really does is serve to remind us how much we miss Anne Bancroft. And that's a sadness that exists entirely outside of the movies.

Warner's enhanced-widescreen DVD offers no extras beyond the theatrical trailer, as though everyone involved just wanted to put this thing behind them and move on. The title is also being made available in a hybrid HD-DVD edition, which includes a standard DVD version on the flip side ... but seriously, if you're selling a movie as a bridge to a more highly defined entertainment experience, wouldn't you want to pick a title that was actually, you know, entertaining?

STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RELEASE DATE: May 9, 2006
RATING: PG-13
PRICE: $28.95
TIME: 97 minutes
DVD EXTRAS: French audio dub; English, French and Spanish subtitles
INTERNET SITE: rumorhasitmovie.com

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