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False, Witless

Romantic comedy neither romantic or funny

Did You Hear About the Morgans

Director:Marc Laurence
Cast:Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sam Elliot, Mary Steenburgen, Seth Gilliam, Wilford Brimley, Elisabeth Moss
Release Date:2009
Genre:Romantic Comedy

Opens Dec. 18.

By Anna Ditkoff | Posted 12/18/2009

Much of this romantic comedy centers on Hugh Grant making jokes that nobody else thinks are funny. Nobody--not the wife he cheated on, nor the country folk he ends up surrounded by. As each joke echoes in the silence of those around it, you start to really feel Grantís pain. His wry one-liners are about the old thing that is funny about this silly and ultimately pointless movie.

Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker play Meryl and Paul Morgan, a separated couple. Both are successful, high-powered, career-minded people. Meryl is a real estate agent. Paul is--well, no idea, but he is apparently important. His primary characteristic is desperately trying to get back together with Meryl. She canít begin to forgive his transgression--which would all be pretty real, potentially emotionally resonant stuff if the two didnít happen upon a murder and need to be whisked into the witness protection program. Baltimoreans may laugh their asses off at the police going to such great lengths to keep a witness safe, especially when the officer in charge is played by Seth Gilliam--Ellis Carver from The Wire.

Anyway, Meryl and Paul are shoved off to the middle of nowhere--aka Ray, Wyoming, a practically microscopic town outside the small town of Cody--to allow them to be stuck together and fall back in love while partaking in some fish-out-of-water shenanigans. You're supposed to mock Paulís fear of bears--which seems pretty warranted--and laugh at Merylís amazement over a Costco-type store where you can get $20 sweaters. Sheís from New York, you see. The part of New York that only has Barneyís. When asked if she would rather live somewhere else or die in New York, Meryl responds with silence and then, ďIím thinking.Ē

Parker does a poor job transitioning between broad comedy and the murder mystery parts of the plot. She maintains one slapstick tone throughout, making it impossible to feel like Meryl is vulnerable to any real threat. Which is not to say that being chased by assassins canít be funny; it was just neither particularly funny nor particularly scary here.

Mary Steenburgen and Sam Elliot do their best to keep this thing chugging along as Wyoming law-enforcement officers and the Morgansí hosts, Emma and Clay Wheeler. Steenburgen deserves better material than playing the wacky outdoorsy mother-figure here and in The Proposal--where is her Itís Complicated?--and she actually looks younger than Parker. Steenburgen is fresh-faced and lovely while Parker looks drawn and haggard. Elliot is fine, and his gravely, laid back delivery is a pleasure to listen to. Elisabeth Moss (Peggy from Mad Men) shines as Merylís assistant, even though she gets barely any screen time and her character is even less of a real person than Paul and Meryl. Wilford Brimley also has a small role, but looks almost as though he has been embalmed and is being moved around the set Weekend at Bernieís-style.

And if all that wasnít enough of a bummer, Did You Hear About the Morgans? offers no good reason for Meryl and Paul to get back together, and the super-happy ending is painfully trite. Honestly, you'll wish you never heard about the Morgans.

E-mail Anna Ditkoff

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