"Did You Hear About the Morgans?" is one of THOSE flicks. You know the kind?
"Did You Hear About the Morgans?" absolutely has to use the line "Did you hear about the Morgans?" at least once in the script. It justifies the rather horrid title, ya know.
"Did You Hear About the Morgans?" is one of those films where the secondary stories are actually more interesting than the main story and, in fact, in two of the secondary plots the characters involved actually do have an iota of chemistry.
"Did You Hear About the Morgans?" is one of those films where you, quite literally, know virtually everything that will happen by watching the trailer.
Were I to rate "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" solely on the basis of its two lead characters, New York's leading boutique realtor Meryl (Sarah Jessica Parker) and lawyer Paul (Hugh Grant), it would be a resounding and overwhelming 1-star debacle. Behind the delightful performances of Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen as a Wyoming sheriff and his deputy/wife dedicated to protecting Meryl and Paul, however, "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" is actually a semi-watchable, occasionally interesting film that still falls short of writer/director Marc Lawrence's last flick, "Music and Lyrics."
Paul and Meryl are a New York couple whose marriage is falling apart, mostly the result of Paul's affair. When the two witness the murder of one of Meryl's real estate clients, they are (of course!) immediately whisked off into a witness relocation program and relocated to, you guessed it, Wyoming, under the watchful of Ray, Wyoming's seemingly old West sheriff and his gun-totin' wife.
If you have any doubt where this is going, then in all likelihood you find yourself watching no more than three to four movies a year. Suffice it to say that there will be conflict, there will be efforts at reconciliation and, yes, there will be reunification. Oh, and in case you're wondering, the bad guys always lose in this kind of flick.
Don't get me wrong. A formulaic flick can work...heck, just look at Disney's "The Blind Side," a formulaic and predictable flick that has warmed the hearts of much of America and garnered Sandra Bullock a Golden Globe nomination. Unfortunately, a formulaic flick can also actually appear formulaic. It can feel lazy and tired and, well, boring. "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" is lazy, tired and, far too much the time, downright boring.
Hugh Grant is an odd little actor. He considers himself in semi-retirement from acting, a profession he self-reports to not really enjoying. Yet, periodically, Grant climbs out of his rocking chair and into a project that particularly interests him.
What about "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" could have possibly interested him. The chance to work with Marc Lawrence again, as he did with "Two Weeks' Notice" and "Music and Lyrics?" A closet crush on Sarah Jessica Parker, which certainly wasn't captured onscreen? It's difficult to fathom what brought Grant out for this flick, but if this is the best performance he can muster working with an old pal, then perhaps it's best for all of us if he stays retired.
Parker isn't called upon to do anything she hasn't done a million times before on television and in film, yet Parker has always been the type of actress who needs to be surrounded a solid cast. In Hollywood terms, Sarah Jessica Parker just isn't solid leading lady material. She can't carry a film. With Hugh Grant not being much more than dead weight, Parker flounders and, despite the solid supporting cast, "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" flounders.
Fortunately, there is a solid supporting cast in "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" and they darn near rescue the film from mediocrity. As the lawmaking couple assigned to protecting this bickering couple, Mary Steenburgen and Sam Elliott are funny, sensitive and endlessly intriguing in roles that may very well have warranted their own film. While it is a tad difficult to imagine audiences showing up to watch a flick about a 60-year-old lawmaking couple, their stories are more entertaining and Elliott and Steenburgen have a relaxed, warm chemistry together that can't help but make you smile.
Other supporting players who shine include Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss, who steals every scene she's in as Meryl's personal assistant, Wilford Brimley, doing the typical gruff (but very well written) Brimley character he does so well, and Kim Shaw, who delights as a small-town girl who plays the town's nurse, assistant fire chief and a waitress in the small town's only restaurant.
Production values are fine across the board with special kudos to DP Florian Ballhaus, who nicely captures the beauty of New Mexico, subbing in for the film's Ray, Wyoming locale.
Some will likely say that "Did You Hear About the Morgans" is a cinematic disaster with the mismatched Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant. Indeed, while Parker and Grant are miscast here, "Did You Hear About the Morgans" has a few moments of charm and enough entertainment among the film's supporting players to make it a decent view at a matinee price.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic