Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer manage to save THE STORY OF US from becoming another Rob Reiner disaster. The talent they display in this comedy drama about a bickering married couple is in stark contrast to Reiner’s Woody Allen impression of an annoying, foul-mouthed Jewish friend. Happily, as in his previous comedies, Reiner isn’t on screen that much. In fact, one of the tasteless jokes his character makes becomes, in the hands of Willis and the screenwriters, a brilliant deflation of Reiner’s character. Not to mention one of the funniest jokes in the movie.
Willis plays Ben, a writer who’s living apart from his wife of 15 years, Katie, played by Michelle Pfeiffer. Ben and Katie hide their imminent divorce from their children, whom they have shipped off to summer camp. In flashbacks, the audience learns about the happy times in the marriage, and the things that led up to their separation. At one point, they try to get back together, only to find the same arguments dividing them. As they prepare the final divorce agreement, they meet once more to bring the children back home and tell them the bad news.
It is fun watching Willis and Pfeiffer go through their on-again, off-again romance. It is also fun watching them debate when and where they should tell their children about the imminent divorce, or listening to them analyze their lives. It is not fun, however, hearing so much strong foul language and so many crude sexual references in THE TWO OF US, especially when they come from director Rob Reiner’s poor imitation of a Woody Allen neurotic philosopher. Someone should tell Mr. Reiner, “The Meathead is dead.” (For those who don’t get this joke, tune in the reruns of TV’s over-rated ALL IN THE FAMILY, co-starring a much-younger Mr. Reiner, on Nickelodeon’s TV Land cable channel.)
Although there are some moral, uplifting elements in THE TWO OF US, the main reason given in the movie for staying married is simply because it feels right to the two main characters. This is the typical romantic response of our modern age – feelings over reason and morality. Also, the differences separating Ben and Katie seem to be rather one-dimensional. For example, he accuses her of being a control freak who lost her spontaneity, while she accuses him of being immature. This kind of superficiality betrays the movie’s inherent implausibility and director Reiner’s sitcom sensibilities.
Consequently, it is impossible to fully recommend this movie, despite the appealing personalities of its two stars. It would have been nice to have seen both of these fine actors in better developed roles that were a bit more challenging. Then, perhaps, some real sparks would fly. Rob Reiner is not the person to direct such a movie, however, especially when he’s in his comedy phase. Thus, THE TWO OF US represents somewhat of a missed opportunity.
Romantic worldview of marriage where the only reason to stay married is because it feels right, with some mild moral elements; 45 mostly strong obscenities & 24 mostly strong profanities, plus some vulgar discussions & crude sexual references; mild violence such as arguing & throwing things; married couple prepares to make love in kitchen plus crude sexual references; rear male nudity & people in underwear; alcohol use & drunkenness; smoking; and, minor characters mention their past adultery, arguing & married couple tries secular counselors to fix what is really a spiritual problem.