DIRECTOR: Marc Lawrence
It's an intriguing concept. A successful Manhattan couple, Paul and Meryl Morgan, (Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker) who are separated cuz she discovered that he did the nasty with another woman, witness the murder of a guy with mob connections. The hit man gets a good look at their faces, and later tries to track them down. So the government puts them in the federal witness protection program and ships them off to Where The Hell Am I, Wyoming. Thrown together again by fate, Paul attempts, awkwardly, to patch up their relationship, amidst ideology and culture clash with the local rednecks, who have little empathy for alternative lifestyles (she's a vegetarian and a PETA supporter) . Meanwhile, the relentless killer is on their trail, and it's only a matter of time before he sniffs them out.
But Did You Hear About The Morgans? is like a Cliff Notes version of a movie, with characters and a plot that aren't completely fleshed out. Meryl has strong convictions, but we're not shown what led her to them--the couple don't even have a cute little dog or a cat or a baboon or a marmoset, as far as we can tell. It's not surprising, though, that the omission was made, as mainstream film makers like to portray vegetarians as being airheads.
Hosted by local U.S. Marshal Clay Wheeler (Sam Elliott) and his Annie Oakley wife Emma, (Mary Steenburgen) our hapless couple is holed up in a cabin with animal trophy heads on the walls and a refrigerator crammed with meat. This sets up the "city slickers out of their element" gag to play throughout the rest of the film. To his credit, writer-director Marc Lawrence (Miss Congeniality) keeps the relationship theme central to the story, rather than turning the movie into an early referendum on the 2012 election--with a wild-eyed, moose blasting Sarah Palin battling for our hearts and minds against the progressive-minded Obamas (Michelle doesn't wear fur) . Both sides stick to their guns and the ideological divide is played mostly for chuckles.
But Did You Hear About the Morgans? takes too many shortcuts--as in when Paul encounters a cranky bear outside the cabin. Meryl, from inside, tries to relay instructions to him on what to do. He's caught between freezing in place or running for his life. It's an amusing bit (as only Grant can pull it off) until you detect that they've resorted to one of the oldest and cheapest cinematic tricks in the book--and that is to superimpose Paul against the backdrop of a screen (like they do with your local TV weatherman) where the bear is snarling menacingly, but Hugh Grant as Mr. Morgan is in no real danger because he's off in a studio somewhere. (Geez...you'd think they could have paid a stunt guy to have a fake tussle with a trained bear, for the sake of realism.) There IS some real courage demonstrated, though, and it comes from Sarah Jessica Parker, who allows herself to be filmed on a city street in the rain, with drenched hair and wearing no makeup. Sans cosmetics, she is strikingly plain-Jane. But it's another bogus scene cuz no upscale Manhattan babe is gonna be caught dead looking that way in public !
Did You Hear About the Morgans? isn't the worst movie I've ever seen...it's just the worst Hugh Grant or Sarah Jessica Parker movie I've seen.
GRADE: C +