Bruce Willis, wearing a series of the world's ugliest shirts, does a fine job as the beleaguered husband.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

The Story of Us is the kind of movie that leaves you with a vague feeling of disappointment: It's better than most current multiplex offerings, but not as good as you want it to be. With a few notable exceptions, the story runs along on flabby dialogue--the last thing we expect from writer/director/actor Rob Reiner, or from a cast that stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Bruce Willis, and a host of reliable comedians.

Still, there are some good laughs. Ben (Bruce Willis) and Katie (Michelle Pfeiffer) are bickering their way toward divorce. After fifteen years of marriage, their romance has shriveled under the press of the mechanics of living and annoying personal habits that have assumed the power to destroy even their friendship. In this case, it seems to boil down to the fact that Ben doesn't listen and Katie blows things out of proportion--plus the little stuff like Ben's forgetting to replenish the windshield wiper fluid.

This couple is stuck at the fifteen-year danger point when all of life seems to be nothing but laundry, driving, cooking, planning, and the other endless details that soak up every waking moment. "I want a connection, a look, something that tells us we're on the same side!" Ben cries out. He won't get that from Katie at this moment in her motherhood.

Children allow people to disconnect slowly. Katie and Ben throw themselves frantically into loving their children while their concern for each other moves to the end of the priorities list. Their children are buffering them while their marriage falls apart. The question of whether they want to rebuild later is the tough part.

This is the stuff of suburban marriage, a superficial, less brutal version of American Beauty. And that's the problem. Because Rob Reiner has chosen to look at two decent people who are merely bickering, there isn't much dramatic heft to the movie.

He could have kept it aloft with an unflagging series of jokes, but he doesn't. Instead, he resorts to visual humor, shrill slapstick, rather than first-rate verbal jousting. He exaggerates the characters and sights when what he really needed was a dozen more good lines to keep the battle going. From Ben's agent (Paul Reiser): "The Ten Commandments were a lot easier to stick by when you died at 35." From Katie: "I wrote my college term paper on 'Harold and the Purple Crayon'."

Bruce Willis, wearing a series of the world's ugliest shirts, does a fine job as the beleaguered husband. He certainly wins the popularity poll in this marital tug. Michelle Pfeiffer, lacking her usual grace and timing, seems strangely uncomfortable in this banter. Her Katie is a whiner. Us is not a bad movie. It's just that, like the marriage at its core, it has no magic.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 499
Studio : Polygram
Rating : R
Running time : h4m

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