With a few minor variations, romantic comedies are, by and large, predictable and formulaic. The thing that saves the good ones is chemistry between the leading players and effective comic relief from the supporting cast.
“Did You Hear About the Morgans?” is not one of the good ones.
Paul (Hugh Grant, “Music and Lyrics”) and Meryl (Sarah Jessica Parker, “Sex and the City”) Morgan are two big-shot New Yorkers whose lives are ruled by their Blackberries. He is a high-end lawyer and she is a famous, top-tier, Manhattan real estate broker. The pair started out madly in love, but over the years, the flame slowly guttered and was finally snuffed when Paul had an affair. He is recalcitrant to the point of being a pest, buying Meryl any number of ridiculous gifts to placate her.
After an awkward dinner, the divided duo coincidentally witnesses one of Meryl’s clients being murdered. The bad guy, who has an honest-to-God facial scar, sees them, and because Meryl is so famous, he tracks them down and tries to kill them.
The police ship Paul and Meryl to Wyoming, where they are put in the protective custody of Clay (Sam Elliott, “Up in the Air”) and Emma (Mary Steenburgen, “The Proposal”). There is a certain amount of culture shock, but Meryl and Paul become acclimated to the wilderness as they become re-acclimated with each other.
Aside from the romantic part, “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” is also a very ham-handed, fish-out-of-water story. We’re supposed to get big laughs watching Paul and Meryl visit a Bargain Barn, shoot guns, ride horses, eat meat, walk on dirt, engage with grizzly bears, visit a general practitioner, talk to a Republican (Wilford Brimley, for crying out loud), dance to country music, go to a rodeo, sleep in silence and play bingo. It’s all just too wacky for words.
It’s difficult to say whether it’s the wooden acting and lack of spark from Grant and Parker or the fact that every character and situation in the movie is based on a stereotype that makes “Morgans” so groan-worthy. Paul and Meryl are painfully two-dimensional as the City Folks, with their aversion to anything un-Manhattan and their squeamishness over good old American country livin’.
And the Country Folks are just as bad. They eat nothing but meat, use animal heads as decoration, smoke, leave their keys in their cars, walk around wearing cowboy hats and carrying guns, and worship John Wayne. The only redneck stereotype missing is racism.
It should be no surprise that what we end up with is a series of broad, situational comedy-style episodes that are loosely tied together by the foregone conclusion that Meryl and Paul will fall back in love. Unfortunately, the situations are so unfunny that one comes to wish they would be mauled by a bear while Clay and Emma jump off a cliff.
To give you some idea, the only marginally funny line in the movie is “Her perfume smelled a bit like a burrito.”
You’ve been warned.”Mike Robertson