(2009)2Jason BuchananIt's crucial for a romantic comedy to possess a certain level of charm and chemistry, especially if the story is thoroughly familiar and has nothing new to offer. Not only do these vital elements help us to forget that we're essentially laying down our hard-earned cash to watch yet another retread of a concept we've already seen countless times before, but they also go a long way in making the clichés bearable.
Together, Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker display all the chemistry of a bottle of vinegar and a box of baking soda, and since there's not a character to be found here who isn't a sloppily written stereotype, charming is the last thing you'd call Did You Hear About the Morgans?
Attorney Paul (Grant) and real estate agent Meryl Morgan (Parker) are a successful New York couple on the verge of divorce. In the wake of a romantic dinner in which Paul tries valiantly to win Meryl back, the pair witnesses a murder, locking eyes with the assassin before making a narrow escape. The following day, the couple is informed by U.S. Marshals that, as the sole witnesses to the crime, they are obligated to testify. Since the killer is still out there, however, Paul and Meryl will be placed in the Witness Protection Program until their scheduled day in court. Their destination: Ray, Wyoming. Placed under the protective care of local lawman Clay Wheeler (Sam Elliott) and his sharp-shooting wife, Emma (Mary Steenburgen), Paul and Meryl do their best to tolerate one another until they can get back to the city, and get on with their separate lives. But perhaps a little down-home hospitality and homespun country wisdom is just what this couple needs to save their failing marriage. Of course it is, but you knew that the moment you saw the trailer.
There are truly no surprises in Did You Hear About the Morgans? Every uninspired moment is carefully telegraphed to the audience to ensure maximum predictability, each two-dimensional character spouts dialogue we've heard countless times before (right down to Wilford Brimley's deadpan decree "We don't take kindly to strangers coming into our town and telling us how to live"), and -- lest anyone have any doubts that the insufferable New Yorkers will eventually rekindle their romance and make it back home in one piece -- it pays to remember that this film was written and directed by the same guy who brought us The Out-of-Towners and Miss Congeniality. That's fitting, too, considering that Did You Hear About the Morgans? is a hopelessly congenial fish-out-of-water story with all the appeal of an unwanted remake.
The only justifiable reason to watch Did You Hear About the Morgans? is if you're an aspiring filmmaker attempting to gain a handle on all of the genre tropes so you can subvert them and make a movie that actually has some shred of creativity and originality. As movie lovers, we all like to switch off our synapses and enjoy a simple slice of comfort cinema on occasion. The reason movies like this are insulting rather than satisfying is that they assume those synapses are already malfunctioning, and that we won't notice we're being spoon-fed the cinematic equivalent of moldy, room-temperature leftovers served on a broken plate.