Trouble with `Us' is that there isn't any

October 15, 1999|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,SUN FILM CRITIC

How sorry are we expected to feel for Ben and Katie Jordan?

The attractive couple at the center of "The Story of Us" live comfortably in an arts-and-crafts bungalow in Los Angeles, they're the parents of two nifty kids, they apparently make lots of money (he as a screenwriter, she as a crossword-puzzle designer), they have good friends with whom they banter over lunch about the opposite sex.

And yet, Ben and Katie are miserable. Through years of mothering both her children and Ben, Katie has become a tad uptight. Ben, for his part, is the kind of wacky guy who ignores the little light on the dashboard that indicates he's out of windshield wiper fluid.

These are the irreconcilable differences that prompt Ben and Katie, over the course of a summer during which their kids are at camp, to decide whether to divorce.

Michelle Pfeiffer and Bruce Willis bring undeniable star power to the roles of Katie and Ben, and no one cries as prettily as Pfeiffer when she's called upon to turn on the waterworks. But "The Story of Us" never makes the Jordans' tribulations feel like anything more than yuppie angst. (This is a marriage that apparently hinges on whether or not he carries a Swiss army knife.)

Rita Wilson's is the only stand-out performance in Rob Reiner's spectacularly bland melodrama, but her most memorable moments are retreads of Meg Ryan's most memorable moments in Reiner's "When Harry Met Sally."

What's more, the film's most genuinely emotional scene is the same series of flashbacks that has served as the movie's trailer, a heart-tugging montage set to "Classical Gas." It's one thing when an advertisement gives a whole movie away; it's quite another when it turns out to be the movie's best scene.

`The Story of Us'

Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Bruce Willis

Directed by Rob Reiner

Released by Universal Pictures

Rated R (language and brief sexuality)

Running time: 92 minutes

Sun score: *1/2

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