Rumor Has It . . . 

Opens Sun., Dec. 25, at Metro and others.

And the rumors are true: This movie is a disaster, Jennifer Aniston's second straight stinker (after Derailed) since the loss of her Brad-luck charm. And the scuttlebutt actually goes further. The writer and original director, Ted Griffin, was fired and replaced by Rob Reiner, a comedy professional whose recent comedies have not, in fact, been that funny. (Anyone want to rent Alex & Emma for a romantic evening on the couch? I think not.) Still, Griffin's original premise seemed promising: Aniston's very flustered "pre-midlife crisis" journalist discovers that, three decades earlier, her Pasadena family was the inspiration for the novel (and later film) The Graduate. (This film is set in 1997 to make the math work, and there's a brief prologue in 1963.) Sign me on! said Aniston, who was swiftly followed by Shirley MacLaine (the Mrs. Robinson figure), Kevin Costner (the mother-daughter seducer played by Dustin Hoffman in the film), and Mark Ruffalo (no correspondence, but somebody's got to play Aniston's long-suffering boyfriend). Aniston's mother (i.e., The Graduate's daughter, played by Katharine Ross, who runs off with Hoffman at the end) has been killed off in this movie, and we learn that she actually left Costner after their brief '60s fling and returned to marry a normal, nice guy—pretty much like Ruffalo, in fact. The latter is a safe but boring lawyer back in New York, but Aniston won't wear his engagement ring when they fly to California for her younger sister's wedding because . . . she's . . . got . . . issues! (Although her hair is great and she looks terrific, you can think of this character as Rachel on a crystal meth jag.) These issues include regularly breaking into tears, wearing a look of constant consternation, and wondering "why I'm not blonder." Of her dull conservative family, she complains, "I don't fit in with them!" When MacLaine spills the beans (abetted by a nifty Kathy Bates cameo), Aniston seeks out Costner in San Francisco, where he's charismatically inventing the Internet. He's handsome, he's rich, he flies his own jet to his own vineyard for breakfast, and they bond instantly, like family. There's an ineffable attraction at work. Which means Aniston could be his daughter—or his trophy wife! (Or both, you ask? Only in a better movie.) I know, because I checked my watch (constantly), that Rumor achieves its one inevitable laugh at the 30-minute mark when Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" is cued. And there's a brief clip from the original, too. I'm just glad Anne Bancroft won't have to suffer through this one. (PG-13)

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