Did You Hear About the Morgans? film review: chk chk
You’ve gotta hand it to Hugh Grant. Cinema’s preeminent sleazy Englishman manages to achieve what appears to be the excruciatingly onerous objective of staying awake throughout Did You Hear About the Morgans?, his puffy, exasperated red eyes telling a thousand stories – each about how he shoulda hit the snooze button and stayed in bed.
Grant valiantly battles what looks like a Valium overdose, or something resembling heavy recreational Ketamine use in writer/director Marc Lawrence’s cringe-fest fish out of water comedy about a bickering upper class couple who are forced to put up with each other while participating in a witness protection program. If Grant hadn’t made a bunch of films a lot like this one he could convincingly claim he was hoodwinked into it, under duress or even gun point, such is the strain on his weary face. Opposite Sarah Jessica Parker, who contributes the kind of performance animals give while gazing into incoming headlights, Grant’s whiny self-deprecating Englishman shtick has never looked so tired. And neither has he.
Paul (Grant) and Meryl (Parker) are a married couple who separated after Paul did the dirty with a pretty lady on a business trip. He’s awful sorry for what he did, in a very mopey British kinda way, blabbering a perfunctory apology here and there and not soliciting a great deal of sympathy. He attempts to smooth things over by taking Meryl out to dinner, but on the way home they witness a murder. The killer tries to cover his tracks via the ol’ bullet in the head chestnut but to the detriment of sadistic audiences who stumbled into the wrong theatre the Morgans survive the opening act and the fuzz convinces them to flee town until the bad guy is found. They are relocated to Ray, Wyoming, down south where gosh darn it they do things a little differently. The couple reconnect while experiencing darn tootin’ country culture i.e. wild bears, rifles and rodeos. The on-the-run plot is like Some Like It Hot (minus the cross-dressing) or Sister Act (minus the nuns) with a City Slickers bent and forged in the smouldering debris of cruddy rom-com.
The funny thing – as in odd, not funny ha-ha – is how half-hearted everything feels: the bickering between Paul and Meryl; the city slickers shtick; the sight jokes; the tame supporting characters. Lawrence plays the comedy broad and it carries a forced, heavily contrived feel, the jokes jutting out like sore thumbs, as if they were underlined in the script or the soundtrack originally had canned laughter. The pace is a slow drawl, like the film has been stabbed in what was left of its funny bone and is slowly bleeding to death before our eyes.
It should be said, however, that Lawrence’s screenplay could have redeemed itself rather spectacularly any time in the last act. All this wretched nonsense could have quickly changed into the stuff of a cult classic along the lines of Robert Rodriguez’s genre/convention defying From Dusk Till Dawn (1996). Here’s how: the killer tracks Meryl and Paul down. Sarah Jessica Parker stands still, looking confused. Hugh Grant makes a whiny Englishman joke – a cup of tea gag, perhaps, or a sentence that ends in “jolly good.” Killer shoots at point blank: bang bang. The two drop dead. Roll credits.
That would have brought the house down. It would also have given much needed relevance to the title and made this train wreck rom-com a water cooler hit. Everybody would be talking about the freakin’ Morgans.
Did You Hear About the Morgans? Australian theatrical release date: December 26, 2009.