'Rumor Has It'

Rumor had it this was gonna be a stinker, and it is. The premise itself, which has been criticized for its weirdly incestuous overtones, isn't even the problem. In fact, it could've been quite funny in the right hands: A young woman discovers a buried secret that her mom and grandmother were the women whose roundelay with the same young man inspired The Graduate, then encounters the graying real-life Benjamin Braddock herself, whereupon moral mayhem again ensues. But just as with the dismal Alex & Emma, Rob Reiner is tapped out when it comes to seducing us.

Jennifer Aniston is Sarah, a converted New York liberal (her antipathy toward tennis signals leftward leanings) returning to conservative Pasadena for her sister's wedding, who confides in her marriage-minded boyfriend, Jeff (the great Mark Ruffalo, thankless everydude extraordinaire), that she wonders whether she's really her father's child. Her reasoning: They have different driving styles (her fast, him slow), don't agree on politics, and don't look the same (it's true, the guy totally looks like an actor hired to play her dad). Since our wily screenwriters have conveniently killed off Sarah's mom (the Katharine Ross antecedent), there's nobody to clear things up when her boozy grandma (Shirley MacLaine) spills the Graduate beans and Sarah sets out in search of her real paternity.

Instead of giving us an aging doofus Braddock, Reiner invests in plastics. Our Braddock alter ego is now a computer mogul whose dullness is mitigated by the fact that he chills with Bill Clinton, flies a plane, and happens to be dateless for a gala ball the night after he first beds Sarah. Oh wait, sorry. He's not her dad, OK? He's sterile, as we learn—and then must question in a renewed rush of incest-panic before relearning. So that's settled, and it's off to wine country. Alas, this fairy-tale affair, which has now united three generations of women and one rich stiff, is short-lived. After a heart-to-heart with her real dad, Sarah resigns to marry reliable Jeff. Maybe it's the terrible lighting, but Friend-out-of-water Aniston spends most of this flick looking like she needs Dustin Hoffman to bang on the glass and get her out of this mess.

 
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