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Movie Review: Did You Hear About the Morgans?

December 21, 2009

Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh GrantTaking the two actors least likely to look natural in cowboy hats, Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant, and forcing them to not only wear cowboy hats but also ride horses is an act of sadistic cinema that appeals to me.  Parker and Grant are awkwardly paired together in the new romantic comedy, Did You Hear About the Morgans?, just in time for Christmas.  There is nothing like using movies and booze to escape your own awkward family moments over the holidays, although to truly enjoy this film I would recommend that the movie going follows the heavy drinking.

…About the Morgans answers the often-asked question, “How can we make people who look ridiculous in cowboy hats, be in a situation where they’ll be required to wear ridiculous cowboy hats?”  Movies such as City Slickers (1 and 2), Shanghai Noon and Maverick all asked this question, proving that studios can come up with a hundred so-so reasons to put such unlikely actors as Billy Crystal, Jackie Chan and Mel Gibson in leather chaps and vests…a hundred reasons besides a remake of Cruising (the 1980 classic that dressed Al Pacino in leather, and sent him to NYC gay bar The Manhole to investigate leather daddies suspected of murder…yes murder! ).

…About the Morgans introduces us to an unhappily married Manhattan couple Meryl and Paul Morgan, who rely on their two personal assistants and smart phones to function in their fast-paced world.  And surprise, surprise, after a client is murdered the Morgans suddenly find themselves in the witness protection program, transported to the middle-of-nowhere Wyoming, without phones or internet (a fate worse than death), sharing a cabin with the Marlboro man and his wife…which is of course the exact opposite of where they started out.  Unfortunately the rest of the movie follows a similarly predictable path; Parker and Grant start to reconnect without the distractions of the modern world, the town at first suspicious of newcomers rallies around them when the pressure is on and the movie delights in forcing the Morgans to shoot guns, ride horses and milk cows…because “hey let’s laugh at how inept non-country folks are!” never gets old.

While the movie suffers from its predictable plotline, there are a couple of unexpected gems to be found.   Sam Elliott and Mary (“it’s Sarah Palin”) Steenburgen’s portrayal of the gun touting, salt-of-the-earth local Sheriff husband and wife team was especially charming.   Likewise, Elisabeth Moss and Jesse Liebman as the bickering set of personal assistants were a welcome reprieve.

Although Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant have as much chemistry as a pair of desk lamps, Parker was unexpectedly good in the role.  When cast in a standard romantic comedy Parker has a tendency to fall flat; her performances in the Jennifer Aniston or Julia Roberts roles always make me think that Carrie Bradshaw decided to take up acting.  Failure to Launch and The Family Stone were not the best vehicles for Parker, although I thought she was fantastic in Smart People.  Hugh Grant, while producing all the patented “Hugh Grant Does a Romantic Comedy” motions (lines said in an endearing, yet awkwardly and emotionally devoid manner, full of the sounds of him clearing his throat) failed to create anything new in this role.  I wanted to ask the people sitting next to me “Wait, what happened to his bookshop in Knotting Hill or that boy who was always hanging around or his posting as the hip Prime Minister?” It was as if Grant was doing a parody of Hugh Grant in a romantic comedy, and a bad parody at that.

Writer and Director Marc Lawrence had previous successes writing for Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality and writing/directing Bullock and Grant in Two Weeks Notice.  I can’t help but wonder how …About the Morgans would have faired if  Bullock had been cast in the role of Meryl Morgan.  Bullock has a proven track record with Lawrence and Grant and perhaps more importantly, she looks adorable in a cowboy hat.

What’s really disappointing is that I actually like Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant and was hoping, against my better judgment, that the pair would manage to pull it off, to take a crappy premise and spin straw into gold.  Unfortunately Did You Hear About the Morgans? remained a pile of straw, somewhat fitting considering all of the scenes involving live stalk.

Frothygirlz Rating:  2/5


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