No one knows his way around romantic comedies better than Hugh Grant, who tends to drift through their formulaic paces with light charm, glancing wit, and affable self-deprecation. But when the material gets really bad, as it does in the dismal Did You Hear About The Morgans?, his pinched facial expressions become an inadvertent commentary on the movie he’s making, as if he plainly realizes that his one-liners are tanking. There are countless moments throughout the film when writer-director Marc Lawrence pauses for a laugh line, but the jokes hang there for an eternity while Grant winces apologetically, like he’s just shattered a dish. And Lawrence’s script—an unwieldy cross between remarriage comedy, broad fish-out-of-water farce, and mild thriller—keeps deepening his embarrassment as the film plods along.
Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker star as married New Yorkers who have been separated for a few months in the wake of his infidelity. One night after meeting for dinner, they witness a murder and the murderer witnesses them witnessing a murder, which eventually leads them into the witness-protection program until the culprit is apprehended. The authorities send these city slickers to a faraway outpost in rural Wyoming, where they stay with ranchers Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen, who enjoy a more harmonious marriage out on the prairie. Grant and Parker’s confinement leaves them plenty of time to bicker their way back into each other’s arms while amusing the locals with their wood-chopping and gun-slinging deficiencies.
Give Morgans this: No one steps in any cowpats. Other than that, Lawrence leaves no cliché untouched, painting Grant and Parker as wimpy, wine-sipping liberals and vegetarians crashing in a house filled with shotguns, a vast library of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne DVDs, and more taxidermy per square inch than Norman Bates’ office in Psycho. From the inexplicable title on down, there’s no palpable investment in these characters or their situation; whenever Lawrence cuts away from the limp banter to go-nowhere subplots such as Grant prepping a will for local crank Wilford Brimley, or the burgeoning romance between the couples’ personal assistants back home, his boredom is palpable. He and his leading man, now on their third film together after Two Weeks Notice and Music And Lyrics, are smugly content to yawn their way through the paces.