Rumor Has It...

Jennifer Aniston has never seemed as if she belongs in movies. It's not that she isn't beautiful or talented; she just never seems big enough. On television, on that smaller screen, she's perfect. She's the girl next door, the unattainable high school cheerleader all grown up. On film, it's different. It's as if she ought to be working in the catering department and instead accidentally wandered in front of the camera on her way to deliver Kevin Costner's doughnuts. Never has that been more true than in Rumor Has It…, a movie in which she's supposed to be the star but winds up getting upstaged by everyone from Mark Ruffalo to Richard Jenkins. Who is Richard Jenkins? Exactly.

In Rumor Has It… Jen (formerly of Brad and Jen, currently of Jen and Vince) plays Sarah Huttinger, a woman well on her way to becoming the third generation of women in her family to sleep with Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner). Rumor has it that the book "The Graduate", on which the 1967 movie is based, is the story of a real family living in Pasadena. Though a weird coincidence, Sarah discovers that not only is the story of "The Graduate" true, but it's the story of her family. Burroughs is the man Benjamin Braddock, Dustin Hoffman's character in The Graduate is based on while Sarah's grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) was the real woman behind Anne Bancroft's Mrs. Robinson.

The plot is obviously a gimmick, but as gimmicks go it's a pretty good gimmick; good enough to drive an otherwise fairly simple romantic pic. The movie opens with a droning Jennifer Aniston narration in which we learn she's confused, unhappy, and also engaged to a rather nice man, played by the again underutilized Mark Ruffalo. They're on their way to the wedding of Sarah's sister, where we learn that the ending of The Graduate is a fudge. In reality, Benjamin Braddock does not run away with Mrs. Robinson's daughter. Instead, she runs away with him only to change her mind and return home to marry her fiancée, Sarah's father. She had two daughters and died… presumably so that Sarah couldn't ask her what happened years later when the big family secret was uncovered.

Except Sarah does a little math and discovers that she was conceived a few weeks before her parents' wedding. This could mean Beau is her father. She tracks him down and he's kind of attractive, leaving the movie to dip into the rather creepy and also uncomfortably funny territory of whether or not this man Sarah is kind of attracted to might actually be her father. Yuck! Sarah's fiancée is not pleased.

Rumor Has It… is a capable romantic comedy from director Rob Reiner, who's other more recent films have been considerably less than adequate. Adequate also works well to describe Aniston, who is her usual serviceable self, if easily replaceable. There's just nothing special about her, and so the film which she headlines isn't particularly special itself. It works because the concept is good and her surrounding cast is good. For instance, it's not much of a stretch to buy Shirley MacLaine as Anne Bancroft. Rob Reiner pulls the gimmick off. The result is not a great movie, but a decent one, a rare romantic comedy that you probably won't regret plunking down money for and seeing.