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Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant: a subplot about the couple’s marital difficulties is crudely sandwiched between stereotypes and slapstick.

Barry Wetcher SMPSP/©2009 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

1 out of 4 stars


Did You Hear About the Morgans?

  • Written and directed by Marc Lawrence
  • Starring Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker
  • Classification: PG

If you've seen the lively trailer for Did You Hear About the Morgans? , you will already know it's a couple comedy starring Hugh Grant, cast as - surprise - a bumbling, charming and sarcastic Englishman, and Sarah Jessica Parker as - surprise again - a winsome and fashionable New Yorker.

They co-star as a soon-to-be-divorced couple who are relocated to a small town in Wyoming as part of a federal witness-protection program. While being guarded by a crusty old sheriff and his Annie Oakley-like wife (Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen), these city slickers get close again. They also learn to shoot and ride horses, Western skills that will undoubtedly come in handy when the bad guy or guys come after them.

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If you are expecting a pleasant evening of escapism, you will be cruelly fooled. The editor responsible for the trailer is clearly a genius. Every remotely humorous moment from Did You Hear About the Morgans? has been carefully included, and in most cases improved, in the trailer.

Stretched out to its full 106 minutes, this is a fish-out-of-water comedy gasping for comic oxygen. Grant plays a lawyer named Paul, and Parker his estranged wife, Meryl, a real-estate agent (allowing for some Sex and the City -style condo-porn tours). Each has a cute personal assistant, respectively, Jackie (Elisabeth Moss of television's Mad Men ) and Adam (Jesse Liebman), who spend a lot of their time texting on their BlackBerries.

One night, Paul and Meryl witness the murder of one of her clients, who turns out to be an arms dealer. The assassin, Vincent (Michael Kelly), who is working for some undefined foreign interests, recognizes Meryl from a magazine cover and makes an attempt on her life. The FBI puts them on a plane and they find themselves in the hamlet of Ray, Wyo., where they are taken in by the sheriff and his wife.

A series of sluggishly paced scenes deal with predictable jokes about Meryl's vegetarianism, and the pair's leftish politics, and unfamiliarity with box stores, milking cows, chopping wood and escaping from grizzly bears. There are a few underdeveloped local rubes - a dim-bulb nurse, a doctor who treats everyone as a child, and an old grouch (Wilfred Brimley), who takes an instant dislike to Paul.

Writer-director Marc Lawrence has delivered competent comedies starring Grant before - Two Weeks Notice and Music and Lyrics - so it's a puzzle why this feature feels more predictable but less polished. Particularly painful is the poor integration of a subplot about the couple's marital difficulties (infertility, infidelity), crudely sandwiched between the stereotypes and slapstick.

The nights in Wyoming, says Paul, are so quiet "you can hear your cells divide." That's not a bad description of the feeling during most scenes between Grant and Parker - those long painful moments after the actors deliver their lines, where the laughs are meant to be.

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About the Author
Film critic

Liam Lacey is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More

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