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Warner Home Video presents
Rumor Has It... Hybrid HD-DVD (2005)

Sarah: If she had a fling and got pregnant, that would explain everything. Why I have nothing in common with my family, why I hate tennis, why I'm not blonder. Am I overthinking this?
Jeff: You're not underthinking it.

- Jennifer Aniston, Mark Ruffalo

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: May 10, 2006

Stars: Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Costner, Shirley MacLaine
Other Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Richard Jenkins, Christopher McDonald, Steve Sandvoss, Mena Suvari, Mike Vogel, Kathy Bates, George Hamilton
Director: Rob Reiner

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual content, crude humor, a drug reference
Run Time: 01h:36m:58s
Release Date: May 09, 2006
UPC: 012569807938
Genre: romantic comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B C-B-B D+

DVD Review

While The Graduate has obviously become part of the common cultural fabric, it never quite occurred to me that one could make a movie that revolves totally around knowledge of that book and movie. But that's pretty much what director Rob Reiner has contrived to do with Rumor Has It..., as it takes a look backward at the 1960s classic and its possible repercussions in 1990s America. The result isn't always comfortable and is indifferently comical, but a solid cast gives it what merits it has.

In 1997, Sarah Huttinger (Jennifer Aniston) has always felt uncomfortable with the rest of her family, especially since her mother's death many years ago. She returns to Pasadena from New York with fiancée Jeff Daly (Mark Ruffalo) for the wedding of her younger sister Annie (the terrifyingly anorexic Mena Suvari). Sarah learns from her grandmother Katharine (Shirley MacLaine) that mom had vanished for a week before her own wedding to sort out her thoughts. Investigating further with Aunt Mitsy (an uncredited Kathy Bates), Sarah suspects that her mother's life story may have been the basis for The Graduate, and that her lover, Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner) might actually be her father. Determined to learn the truth, Sarah hunts Beau down, with predictable results.

It's hard to tell whether Reiner is just going for complete shock value, or whether he's so tone-deaf that he doesn't realize that there's not a lot of comedy in father-daughter incest, but the result is just too grotesque to be very funny. Granted, Costner's character makes up an excuse why he can't be her father and Aniston's character gullibly buys it, but there's nothing beyond his say-so that supports it; since he's already known to be a rather creepy character, the viewer doesn't get a lot of comfort from this supposed reassurance. The ambiguity is probably supposed to lend some edginess to the comedy, but it seems much too weird in a mainstream Hollywood movie; I don't particularly have a problem with it in something like Female Trouble that's obviously trying to appal the viewer as much as possible, but with the glossy treatment it just seems too twisted for words.

The comedy as a result feels a little forced at times, and doesn't allow one to enjoy the film thoroughly. The funniest bits tend to come from the expertly timed reactions to other characters' statements (though the biggest laugh comes from a pure bit of slapstick). The best at this is oddly enough an actress I've pretty universally disliked: MacLaine does a great job with the Mrs. Robinson character gone to seed, full of moxie and snottiness poking through a bourbon-induced haze. She revels in the character, taking it way over the top, yet when she gets the chance to confront Costner, she also manages to turn on the geriatric sex appeal. It's a beautiful piece of casting, nearly equalled by the use of Costner as the older Benjamin Braddock. He gives a performance that's equal parts charm, self-assuredness and embarrassed fumbling, making for one of his most likeable roles in many years (the incest business aside). It's easy to see three generations of women falling for him. Aniston herself is merely adequate; she doesn't have the personality to carry a film, though when she gets a decent gag she's more than happy to run with it.

Another thing working against the success of the film as a comedy is that the last couple reels dissolve into emotional mush. Some might claim that it's a romantic comedy with a heart but the prior goings-on make that more than a little difficult to accept. It gives plenty of tear-jerking though, so it might not make a bad date movie, as long as your date doesn't have any incest and molestation issues lurking in the background.

This release is notable for being not only the first HD-DVD to be released day and date with the standard version, but it's also the first hybrid HD-DVD and standard-DVD. The main problem with that notion is that Warner has been rather aggressive in its pricing; I question whether the $39.99 suggested retail price can possibly be accepted by a public conditioned to sub-$20 movies, especially since there aren't any significant extras. But if your household has a number of DVD players, only one of which is HD, the portability factor may have some significant value.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C-

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyesyes
Anamorphicyesyes


Image Transfer Review: The disc offers both an HD and, on its flip side, a SD version of the film, both in anamorphic widescreen. There's some minor difference in aspect ratio due to unmatting of the HD image to a 16:9 shape that exposes slightly more image at top and bottom than on the standard side. It's not clear why Warner invited controversy over the aspect ratio in this way, but the difference is inconsequential to my eyes, since it's really only a matter of a few pixels. And frankly, the differences between the HD and SD versions are fairly inconsequential too. Since it's a new transfer of a new film, the SD version looks quite nice, and is certainly very attractive. The HD version, unsurprisingly, has some increased fine detail and better color resolution (MacLaine's vivid red dress looks much better in HD). But I'm not sure the difference is large enough to justify the extreme price differences between the standard and HD versions. Worse, the HD side has visible edge enhancement that is frequently obnoxious. That was an unnecessary and counter-productive step that makes this an even less attractive purchase.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: Each version of the film includes DD 5.1 English and French tracks (the HD versions being DD+). This doesn't have much gaudy audio, and the dialogue is firmly in the center throughout. Only on occasion are minor sound effects directional, such as a ringing cellphone. The surrounds are pretty much limited to music. Range and fidelity are fine. The HD version has the same issue with the sound levels being too low as was found on the first wave of Warner HD DVDs (which probably shouldn't be surprising since this was until fairly recently intended to be part of that first wave). It can use some correction to higher volume levels than ordinary, but the noise floor is low enough that it doesn't adversely affect the sonic experience.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 25 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Superman Returns, Just Friends
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Elite
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The extras are scanty, falling victim to the reduced space available on the hybrid disc. The film's trailer appears on both sides (though not in high definition on the HD side), while the SD side contains two additional trailers. For some reason I had some difficulty getting the HD side's trailer to play, but it eventually cooperated.

Extras Grade: D+

 

Final Comments

A highly uncomfortable and not all that funny romantic comedy that misses on too many cylinders; where it does succeed is due to some great casting. Not exactly a showcase HD transfer, however, and nothing more than a trailer tacked on.

 


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