Did You Hear About the Morgans?
dir-scr Marc Lawrence
prd Liz Glotzer, Martin Shafer
with Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen, Elisabeth Moss, Jesse Liebman, Michael Kelly, David Call, Kim Shaw, Wilford Brimley, Gracie Bea Lawrence, Seth Gilliam
release US 18.Dec.09, UK 1.Jan.10
09/US Columbia
Did You Hear About the Morgans?
City slickers: Parker and Grant

elliott steenburgen moss
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Did You Hear About the Morgans? Despite a breezy premise, this rom-com displays lazy filmmaking at almost every level of the production, from a slapped-together script to uninteresting direction and sleepwalking performances from the two leads.

Paul and Meryl Morgan (Grant and Parker) are a high-powered Manhattan couple who have fallen apart due to their busy jobs and a moment of infidelity on Paul's part. Headed for divorce, they witness a mob murder and become targets for the hitman (Kelly). So the US Marshals put them in the witness protection programme, hiding them in the isolated Wyoming home of a gruff local sheriff (Elliott) and his gun-totin' wife (Steenburgen). Perhaps the Morgans can use this time to reconnect with the world. And each other.

Sure, the premise is about as predictable as every other romantic comedy, but there's actually some hope that the film might become something more interesting as it has the potential to tap into some serious issues. Alas, no: those topics (infertility, infidelity) become mere fodder for the formulaic script, which then drifts through goofy slapstick (ooh, a bear!) to the requisite cornball-thriller finale. And the humour never gets much more sophisticated than putting a vegetarian in meat-eating country.

Frankly, anyone could have written and directed this movie given this budget. Lawrence's direction is even blander than most of these assembly-line movies. But the really strange thing is that both Grant and Parker seem to barely register on screen. Grant never makes eye contact with anyone, gazing at the floor as he mumbles every line and struggles to look busy while someone else is speaking. Parker also seems to be counting the minutes until the end of each scene, so it's no wonder that they have no chemistry at all.

Much better are the supporting cast, including the sassy Moss and puppy-like Liebman as Paul and Meryl's personal assistants back in New York, plus the cute Call and ditsy Shaw as a rural Wyoming doctor and nurse. And the whole film is stolen by Elliott and Steenburgen. They had a bit of spark to every lacklustre scene, even though their characters never rise above stereotypes. So it's no surprise that the climactic rodeo sequence feels half-baked at best.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 9.Dec.09

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall