Friday, January 1, 2010

Few laughs or chemistry in forgettable "Morgans"

Did You Hear About the Morgans? (2009)
103 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: C

Did you hear about the flat-lining romantic-comedy, "Did You Hear About the Morgans?"? You probably didn't, but it's an end-of-season release that slaps Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker together and prays against all hope that comic chemistry will ignite. It's a month too early, but feels like the kind of doldrums that opens in January. The ill-matched Grant and Parker play a separated New York couple—lawyer Paul and high-powered real estate broker Meryl—who witness a murder. Before you can say “Get outta town!” they're flown to a never-heard-of-it hick town in Wyoming in the witness protection program. 

Culture-clash/fish-out-of-water/“Do you have cable (or a phone)?” comedy from “Green Acres” ensues: listen to the crickets chirp after a hysterical Paul runs away from a grizzly bear and Meryl accidentally sprays bear repellant in Paul's eyes. And needless to say, the Morgans belong together and everyone knows it but them. Sigh, those damn New Yorkers never learn. The most important thing is just showing up, which the likable stars surely do, but you'll want more snap in your banter and funnier punchlines for your money than what's given in writer-director Marc Lawrence's witless script (who brought us modest, funny charmers like "Two Weeks Notice" and "Music and Lyrics," both starring Grant). 

Grant, even with all his British-bloke bluster and charm, seems to be phoning it in, and is even held back by the material. And last seen with Grant 13 years prior in "Extreme Measures," Parker definitely has an assured hand when it comes to comedy, but her Meryl isn't much of a stretch from Carrie Bradshaw. Instead, you should hear about the Wheelers, a hospitable pair of U.S. Marshalls who take in the targeted couple, played by Sam Elliott, Sam Elliott's mustache, and Mary Steenburgen, who are a breath of fresh air compared to the Morgans. At best, we get Steenburgen's response after Meryl says she's a member of PETA.: “I am too ... 'People for Eating Tasty Animals.'” "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" is a mild throwaway: mediocre, unnecessary, but not awful fare that would be just fine to wait for on cable.

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