There's a seed of a clever idea in Rob Reiner's 2005 romantic comedy Rumor Has Itů that the director and his cast fail to sufficiently exploit. Jennifer Aniston stars as a 30-something woman who discovers that her family was the basis for Charles Webb's 1963 novel The Graduate and the subsequent 1967 film version by Mike Nichols (the new movie has been set in 1997 to accommodate the ages of the actors relative to the referenced material). That would make Grandma (Shirley MacLaine) the Mrs. Robinson character and Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner) the Benjamin Braddock. Struggling to piece together her true family history, Aniston's Sarah tracks down Burroughs to get some answers, but finds herself making the same mistakes that the last two generations of women in her family did.
You can imagine that a smart director with a sharp script could have a lot of fun riffing on The Graduate and updating its themes and humor for a new generation. Unfortunately, such an idea seems completely beyond the ambition of Reiner and crew, who have instead assembled a rather standard chick-flick that doesn't seem to know anything at all about The Graduate in the first place. Costner's Burroughs character is depicted as a charming ladies' man seducing women with just a glance, which is about as far from the awkward Benjamin Braddock type as you can get.
The movie opens (or nearly does) with Aniston flying home to see her family after an extended absence, but did it occur to anyone to duplicate the famous airport moving-sidewalk credits sequence from the Nichols' film? I guess not. There's a wedding reception party scene that plays vaguely like the graduation party in the old film, but the similarities are so thin you'd almost have to force the comparison. Reiner has brought in offbeat songstress Nellie McKay to provide songs for the soundtrack, but doesn't even attempt to use her in the same capacity that Nichols used Simon and Garfunkel, instead asking her to just write some syrupy romantic tunes that could have been the work of a dozen other singers cashing a paycheck.
Once upon a time, Rob Reiner directed the definitive romantic comedy, the very smart and very funny When Harry Met Sally. Sadly, those days are long past. Rumor Has Itů is a by-the-numbers formula rom-com without much to distinguish it. It has two or three very funny moments, lost in a movie that aims for sappy and predictable when it had the potential to be witty and hilarious.
The HD DVD:
Rumor Has Itů debuts on the HD DVD format courtesy of Warner Home Video. This title is the first release to feature an HD DVD version on one side of the disc and a standard DVD version on the other (both are single-layered). The usefulness of such a thing seems pretty limited, frankly. Someone who wants a High Definition version of the movie isn't going to want to pay extra for a standard DVD version that they probably won't even use, while someone who wants a standard DVD version isn't going to buy it when a plain DVD edition is also available for less money. Perhaps if the disc were being sold at the regular DVD price point, it might appeal to those considering moving up to HD in the future, but priced at a premium for either format it appeals to essentially no one.
HD DVD discs are only playable in a compatible HD DVD player. They will not function in a standard DVD player (except in cases like this where the disc specifically includes a secondary DVD version) or in a Blu-Ray player. Please note that the star rating scales for video and audio are relative to other High Definition disc content, not to traditional DVD.
The Rumor Has Itů HD DVD is encoded on disc in High Definition 1080p format using VC-1 compression. The movie's theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio has been slightly opened up to fill a 16:9 frame, with negligible impact to the composition. Since HD is natively 16:9 in shape, the HD DVD format does not require anamorphic enhancement as used on DVD.
Despite being contained on only a single HD DVD layer (all of the other HD DVD releases thus far have been dual-layered), this is a short movie with almost no bonus features and fits into the allotted space without any visible compression problems. The picture is sharp, colorful, and clean. Sadly, the movie has a very bland photographic style reminiscent of TV sit-coms, which prevents it from qualifying as demonstration material.
In comparison to the standard DVD version of the movie on the second side, the HD DVD version is decidedly sharper and more vibrant. I didn't have the plain DVD edition available for comparison, but would assume it looks the same as Side 2.
The Rumor Has Itů HD DVD is not flagged with an Image Constraint Token and will play in full High Definition quality over an HD DVD player's analog Component Video outputs.
The photo images used in this article were taken from the DVD edition for illustrative purposes only, and are not intended to demonstrate HD DVD picture quality.
The movie's soundtrack is encoded in Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 format, which offers higher bit rates than available with traditional Dolby Digital audio found on DVD. Many of the initial HD DVD titles from Warner Bros. have an acknowledged mastering issue where the audio volume is set by default much lower than the comparable DVD edition of the same movie or HD DVDs from other studios. I found that I had to raise my receiver's volume by 10 dB over my usual settings. Having done so, it sounds otherwise fine.
This is a very basic comedy mix that's almost entirely dialogue and music, with no surround activity or notable bass. It's fine for what it is, but that's really nothing to get excited about. The Nellie McKay songs on the soundtrack do sound great, however.
A French dub is also available in DD+ 5.1. Subtitle options include English, English captions for the hearing impaired, Spanish, or French.
The disc automatically opens with a lengthy HD DVD promo that can fortunately be skipped but is a nuisance. The standard DVD side also opens with annoying forced commercials for unrelated products from the studio.
The only bonus feature on this HD DVD title (a theatrical trailer) is recycled from the DVD edition and is presented in Standard Definition video with MPEG2 compression. Future releases may offer more advanced features. The interactive menus are accompanied by annoying clicking sound effects for every selection that can be turned off if you desire (and I recommend it).
The standard DVD side of the disc has the same trailer and nothing else.
No interactive features have been included.
Rumor Has Itů is just another boring chick-flick that squanders its appealing cast and clever concept in some bland material and execution. The HD DVD looks very nice and sounds OK, but has no bonus features of note. Its high list price is far from justified by adding an unwanted standard DVD version of the movie on the other side of the disc. This is strictly rental material only.
Rumor Has It... (Blu-ray)
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