It's best to squash this 'Rumor'

'Rumor Has It,' Rob Reiner's update of 'The Graduate,' won't seduce viewers.

I suppose it sounded like a good idea at the time. Make a comedy-drama about the urban legend behind "The Graduate." Stir in Jennifer Aniston, Mark Ruffalo, Kevin Costner, and Shirley MacLaine, and then get Rob Reiner to direct it.

It turns out to have been a rather bad idea. For starters, Reiner only stepped in to direct when the screenwriter, T.M. Griffin, fell prey to that strange Hollywood ailment known as "creative differences." What made it onto the screen is still none too "creative."

And the urban legend? Aniston's Sarah Huttinger, an obit writer for The New York Times, discovers that her mother, long deceased, and grandmother - played here by Shirley MacLaine - were the real-life models for the novel-turned-Mike Nichols movie. All of which made me want to revisit "The Graduate" instead of sitting through this draggy pastiche of tired gags and half-baked homilies.

Things get particularly dicey when Aniston, in an attempt to track down the man she believes is her biological father, ends up sleeping with him (after being convinced, of course, that she is mistaken - but still). The fact that he is played by Costner seems to make it all right. I suppose we should be happy that Dustin Hoffman didn't agree to appear in a cameo.

Reiner may not have his heart in the movie business anymore. It's been a long time since he's made anything that was even OK. (His political efforts in California are far more impressive.) Even though the script for "Rumor Has It" is not wonderful, the cast is - or should have been. Aniston showed some flair recently as a femme fatale in the otherwise dismal "Derailed," but here she is again in her "Friends" mode and looking rather uncomfortable. Ruffalo, playing her fiancé, is alternately winsome and whiny; he deserves much more than this dish-rag role.

Costner, however, playing a captain of industry, has a smooth, low-key charm. He lets his easygoing nature come through. Without him, some of his recent movies, including "The Upside of Anger," would be much the worse for wear.

And Shirley MacLaine does her best with a part that seems to have been written as all zingers. Few hit the mark, but that's the screenwriter's fault, not hers.

You also have to wonder why anyone would even care at this point whether "The Graduate" was based on real people or not. The family dysfunction that is on display during any daytime talk show puts this film in the shade. Grade: C-

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content, crude humor, and a drug reference.

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