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Did You Hear About the Morgans?
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by Peter Sobczynski

"A Suitable Case For Treatment"
1 stars

When “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” comes out on DVD, I sincerely hope that all of the key players are contractually obligated to appear on the DVD commentary track. There are two reasons for this. First, I want to be comforted by the thought that they all had to sit through this atrocity from beginning to end. More importantly, I want to hear each of them explain exactly why they chose to sign on for this particular project other than the oodles of money that they presumably received for their participation. What was it that really got their attention--the contrived script, the unlikable characters, the grating one-liners or the smugly condescending tone that permeates every scene? I would genuinely like to know because I cannot for the life of me understand why any sentient human being would want to be even remotely associated with something this irredeemably awful. This is a film that does roughly the same thing for the concept of star-powered romantic comedies that Tiger Woods has done for the concept of marital fidelity. And as powerfully crass and unfunny as that joke may be, it still stands head and shoulders above any on display in the movie itself.

Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker play Paul and Meryl Morgan, a well-to-do New York couple who are currently separated as the result of a bit of marital infidelity on his part--arguably the single aspect of the entire film that is actually plausible. While he is desperate to reconcile (see what I mean?), she is less certain but fate conspires to bring them together when they witness the murder of the key government witness against some barely defined bad guy and are forced to enter the witness relocation program together. They wind up being placed in the ultra-remote town of Rae, Wyoming in the custody of an avuncular U.S. marshal (Sam Elliott) and his pistol-packing wife (Mary Steenburgen) and find themselves trying to get adjusted to a town where everybody is friendly to one another--provided that you aren’t a foreigner, an urbanite, a Democrat or a vegetarian--and the shopping is limited to the local Wal-Mart clone. In news that will presumably surprise none of you, the two repeatedly fight and make up while eventually learning to appreciate the benefits of a quieter and simpler existence away from the noise and ethnicity of the big, bad city.

In further news that will presumably surprise none of you, a hired killer (Michael Kelly) manages to track the Morgans down by eavesdropping on their comedy relief assistants (Elisabeth Moss and Jesse Liebman) and discerning their whereabouts. Of course, it isn’t entirely the fault of the assistants because despite the theoretical need to assume completely different lives and identities, the Morgans are allowed to retain their first names (presumably so as not to confuse slower audience members) and pursue small-scale versions of their former professions--high-powered realtor Meryl get to help the local doctor sell his mom’s home while high-powered lawyer Paul get to help the local grump/possible Democrat killer (Wilford Brimley) make out his will. In other news that will surprise no one, it all ends at the local rodeo where everyone comes together to help the Morgans and bring the outmatched hitman to justice. As a capper, we get a six-months-later epilogue in which the previously infertile Morgans now not only possess a Chinese orphan but were apparently so invigorated by said rodeo that they now have a child of their own on the way, though there is no word as to whether Paul lasted the requisite eight seconds before being thrown.

“Did You Hear About the Morgans” was written and directed by Marc Lawrence, the man responsible for such crimes against the romantic comedy form as “Forces of Nature,” “Miss Congeniality” and “Two Weeks Notice.” None of those films demonstrated any particular traces of wit or originality but each one of those gumdrops comes across as the second coming of “Blithe Spirit” when compared to the inanities on display here. With its combination of lazy storytelling and rimshot-worthy one-liners in lieu of dialogue that sounds like something an actual human being might say, the film often feels like a bizarre homage to those dreadful cookie-cutter comedies that Neil Simon used to whip out every six months or so about three decades ago. And yet, as bad as those films were, they usually had at least one or two mildly amusing moments apiece while this one is not only completely devoid of laughs, it is completely devoid of things that could have been developed into laughs. The premise is contrived, even by the usual standards for this particular genre, the deeply patronizing attitude towards the flyover folk who are clearly the target audience wears thin very quickly and there isn’t a single joke on display here that hasn’t been done better a dozen times before. (We even get a version of the ancient running gag in which one person turns out to hold half the jobs in town and we are supposed to be amused each time she turns up.)This is a film that is so desperate for laughs that it not only has Hugh Grant get bear repellent squirted in his face for no apparent reason, it actually reprises the gag later on by having him squirt himself with bear repellent for no apparent reason in a move that would strain credulity within the context of a Three Stooges short from the Shemp era. Let me put it this way--if there was a comedic equivalent of the Black Museum housed in Scotland Yard that contains a collection of examples of the most ham-fisted and least amusing attempts at humor of modern times, the screenplay for this film could serve as its catalogue.

The only thing that might have possibly saved the film from complete uselessness is if it had been cast with a pair of actors who were able to generate enough charm and goodwill through their interactions to make the material work in spite of itself. That is what happened with Lawrence’s previous film, “Music & Lyrics,” in which co-stars Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore made for such a charming and likable couple that they managed to single-handedly sell the silliness. Unfortunately for us all, Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker are never able to generate the same kind of sparks. Individually, they go through their paces without any flair or energy--not even the usually reliable Grant is able to wring laughs out of what he has been given to work with here--and they are a complete washout in their scenes together. There is never a single moment in which they seem remotely believable as a couple and without that, there is absolutely no reason to care for a moment about whether they get back together or not. There was more genuine romantic chemistry on display between Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg in the last half-hour of “Antichrist” than there is at any point between Grant and Parker here.

“Did You Hear About the Morgans?” is one of those films that it so indescribably lazy and awful in every imaginable way that you can’t even muster up the energy to get particularly angry or snaky with it. This is a failure so powerfully dispiriting than you can barely muster the strength to make it out of the multiplex under your own power. How bad is it? It is so bad that even though I have yet to see “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” as I write these words, I am confident that not even that particular effort will be able to beat this one out for the title of the worst film of the season (yes, even worse than the likes of “Old Dogs” and “New Moon”). It is so bad that even in a year that has given us the likes of “New in Town,” “The Proposal,” “The Ugly Truth” and “All About Steve,” it is by far the least effective romantic comedy to hit theaters in 2009. It is so bad, if fact, that if I had to choose between revisiting it or the entire filmography of Jennifer Aniston again, I would actually have to sit down and think about it for a while.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=18954&reviewer=389
originally posted: 12/18/09 00:00:00
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User Comments

3/13/10 Corey Weaver Wow. The puchlines for this film were dead in the water.. 1 stars
1/03/10 Marie Bailey Great enjoyment with no sex or crime 4 stars
12/26/09 John Brilliant movie, loved it in every way. You must see it! 5 stars
12/20/09 SirGent One question; WHY? This is monumentally BAD. 1 stars
12/18/09 CW Sewik God awful 1 stars
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  18-Dec-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 16-Mar-2010


  DVD: 16-Mar-2010

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