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With Jim Sabatini

Did You Hear About The Morgans?

Did You Hear About The Morgans?
Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen, Elisabeth Moss

Rated: PG-13 some sexual references and momentary violence
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: December 13, 2009 Released by: Columbia TriStar

This flat, insipid comedy follows a highly successful Manhattan couple, Meryl and Paul Morgan (the inherently likeable Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant), whose almost-perfect lives have only one notable failure - their dissolving marriage.

In Did You Hear About The Morgans? the turmoil of their romantic lives is nothing compared to what they are about to experience: they witness a murder and become targets of a contract killer (Michael Kelly).

The fish-out-of-water genre is something that Sandra Bullock has done with much success (see Miss Congeniality and this year's The Proposal). Her Two Weeks Notice co-star Grant, who once starred with Parker (Sex in the City) in the dramatic thriller Extreme Measure is thought by some to be one of Britain's national treasures. But, here, as a philandering well-bred New York attorney, he often looks uncomfortable and/or in pain.

From the outset in director Marc Lawrence's pedestrian, by-the-numbers script there's nothing that makes you think the Morgans ever clicked as a couple as the high-strung real-estate broker Parker is as sprightly as possible opposite the laid-back Grant who can't bring any charisma to what more often than not comes across as pallid and sluggish. Even with the occasional punchline of dialogue that comes between what seems like extended scenes or pauses during which the crickets make themselves known.

Paul and Meryl are put into the Witness Relocation Program after being in the wrong place at the wrong time after the dinner Paul had planned in order to get back with his estranged, infertile missus and an attempt at Meryl's swank Manhattan apartment.

They're whisked to Ray, Wyoming (which passes for New Mexico where grizzlies and rodeo bulls roam) and taken in as guests by Marshall Clay Wheeler (Sam Elliott, remember Prancer for the holidays) and NRA-inspired wife Emma (Mary Steenburgen of Four Christmases).

Apparently, this community and nature itself will be a kind of elixir for Paul and Meryl as they deal with bear repellent spray, bargain-shopping at the Big Barn, and a crusty owner of a diner Earl (a rather weathered Wilford Brimley). Of course, Kelly's dogged, yet stymied Vincent will make his way to Ray thanks to Meryl's (who's been trying to get pregnant) need for adoption. The audience is always at least one step ahead of the characters, especially those of Jackie (Elisabeth Moss) and Adam (Jesse Liebman), Meryl and Paul's respective assistants who unwisely try to contact them.

Instead of the Minnesota yokel folk in the cliched New in Town, the Ray denizens offer the requisite culture shock and clash for the mostly colorless leads, but a certain amiable contrast. Especially, Elliott and Steenburgen whose grizzled yet seasoned characters who've housed many for the feds, who seem the smartest of the bunch. Though, what appeals mainly to females will have laughs from a local physician (Seth Gilliam) and a pretty young assistant firechief.

You've seen and heard many times about The Morgans in far less excruciating romantic comedies as Bullock of late seems to have found richer scripts if the concurrent drama The Blind Side is any indication. Even Lawrence worked with Grant and Drew Barrymore with less mediocrity in Music & Lyrics. But even with a couple of arguably entertaining setpieces and a country and folk infused score with Earl's (future "American Idol" star) headlining the "I Love Lucys" this tale of rekindling through Big Barn and nature is a case of witlessness that moviegoers need to be protected against..

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Did You Hear About The Morgans?  C-      D+         D   C-      D+ 

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