After only three features—all starring Hugh Grant—it appears that the proverbial well has run dry for director Marc Lawrence. Regardless of the popularity or modest critical success that accompanied Two Weeks Notice (2002) or Music and Lyrics (2007), Lawrence and Grant’s latest romcom foray, Did You Hear About the Morgans?, is nothing but a dud. It seems the Lawrence we’ve inherited this time around is more akin to the man who wrote Miss Congeniality 2 (2005).
Of course, with the exception of the occasional quirkier or more ambitious attempts, the romantic comedy isn’t a genre that lends itself to inventiveness. However, this lack of innovation doesn’t mean these movies can’t be enjoyable as entertainment, as long as the movie has some charm to it. This isn’t the case here, where goodwill has seemingly transformed into phoned-in laziness.
The plot is nothing special, with Manhattan high rollers—newly separated man and wife—Paul (Grant) and Meryl Morgan (Sarah Jessica Parker, notable only since this is her first role sans chin mole) and their floundering marriage being shipped away by witness protection to Wyoming after the couple witnesses a murder. And since these two are used to the hustle and bustle of New York City, the requisite clashes of culture are not far behind. Paul gets chased by a bear and can’t chop wood. Meryl is astonished by the existence of $5 sweaters. And the rest of the town’s hodge-podge of quirky bumpkins mill about for added hilarity. Intersperse a heap of marital nagging here and there and some gradual reconciliation, and it’s just a matter of waiting for the final reel to roll around so the bad guy (Michael Kelly, Law Abiding Citizen) can show up and Paul and Meryl can finally get back together.
None of it’s fresh, but even this might be overcome if any actual effort had been put forth. Hugh Grant’s self-deprecating mumbling only goes so far, and here “so far” is about to the end of the opening credits. It certainly doesn’t help that he and Parker have the chemistry of a couple of wet paper towels. When your film’s big climax finishes with Sam Elliot knocking a man unconscious with a tossed horseshoe, you know you’ve witnessed a kind of lameness seldom seen. The only personality to be found in this junker resides in Wilford Brimley’s mustache.
Those with more tolerance and patience for this kind of thing will probably get a good bit more distance out of The Morgans and its romcom formula than I did, but even then it might be taxing. For everyone else, you’ll probably be wishing movie theaters were equipped with a fast-forward button. Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and momentary violence.