"Did You Hear About the Morgans?" is a romantic comedy that is rarely funny and never romantic. Assembled from a bunch of spare parts that better movies have been perusing and using for years, the whole thing feels like a rather pointless exercise where writer/director Marc Lawrence was told to get his two actors from point A to point B in the most unoriginal and unappealing way possible.
Peter and Meryl Morgan (Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker), two high-powered New Yorkers, are a separated couple that witnesses a murder one night after having dinner (Peter is begging Meryl for forgiveness for cheating on her). The FBI, wanting to keep the two alive to testify, put Peter and Meryl in protective custody. This ends the criminal plot of the story — we never discover why the murder occurred or who the murderer might be, and the Morgans are never questioned. The crime is just an random device used to thrust the unhappy characters together.
Starring:Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen, Elisabeth Moss
The Morgans are whisked away to Ray, Wyoming (the most clich©d small town ever), where they are placed under the charge of two local law dogs, Clay and Emma Wheeler (Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen). Clay and Emma are (you guessed it!) a happily married couple that just may teach the Morgans a thing or two about how to keep those home fires burning.
What follows is basically everything you would expect. The Morgans, feeling like fish-out-of-water, have to learn how to get by without cell phones, the Internet, Starbucks and city noise to lull them to sleep at night (though I am not sure how city noise reaches the penthouse). Along the way, they encounter a grizzly bear, experience good ole fashioned country hospitality and find love again.
Hollywood has proven time and again that creaky plot devices and clich©d writing can be salvaged if stars have chemistry. Unfortunately Grant and Parker have zero. There is simply no spark.
Grant in particular feels completely stranded here. His typical turn, characterized by a kind of eccentric detachment (the bumbling, floppy Englishman), is one that can easily feel like lazy, paycheck-driven acting if not countered by an actress that he can bounce off of. Sadly Sarah Jessica Parker just doesn’t work. She comes off as too neurotic and nagging. I found myself rooting for a quickie divorce, or for the killer to find them. Whichever would get me out of the theater quicker.
Go ahead and skip "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" But if you just cant help yourself, and find yourself buying a ticket anyway, here are some questions that I was left with that could use answering. Please get back to me:
Why do all small town citizens in movies have southern accents even when the small town is 4,000 miles from the nearest southern state? Sam Elliot sounds like he is from Texas and everyone else is doing a Virginia twang.
Why do characters always have to go to a small town to reconnect and figure out what is important? Is self-reflection illegal in major cities?
Why do bad romantic comedies always have supporting characters that are more interesting and fun than the leads? In "Did you Hear About the Morgans?’ it is Meryl’s ball-busting assistant, Jackie (a nice off-type role for "Mad Men’s" Elisabeth Moss). I would totally watch a whole movie about her.
Does bear repellant actually exist?
And of course…did you hear about the Morgans?