Saturday, January 2, 2010

Did You Hear About the Morgans?: A Review (Review #30)


Yes, I Heard.  How Awful...

While watching Did You Hear About the Morgans?, I heard two things: the audience laughing in the theater and the theme to Green Acres playing in my head. It came when Meryl Morgan (Sarah Jessica Parker) started whining about how she couldn't relocate anywhere the Witness Relocation Program would send her. She NEEDED to live in New York, don't you know. It's then when I hear, "No, New York's where I'd rather stay/I get allergic smelling hay/I just adore a penthouse view/Darling, I love you but give me Park Avenue". I get the feeling that writer/director Mark Lawrence may actually have been inspired by the show to come up with such a silly premise.

Meryl and Paul Morgan (Hugh Grant) have been separated for three years after Paul had a one-night stand. Paul desperately wants Meryl back and convinces her to have dinner with him. After dinner they take a walk where Meryl sees a client of her real estate business plunge to his death...and both see the killer. To protect them, they are sent to Ray, Wyoming, and hilarity ensues. Dear Sweet Mother of Mercy nothing ensues except eye-rolling.

Grant hasn't changed his persona or performance since Four Weddings and a Funeral. It's the EXACT SAME ROLE, the EXACT SAME PERFORMANCE. His halting delivery, his fumbling body movements: I actually wondered whether he CAN act or has decided to give up, play "Hugh Grant" and cash his checks. I'm guessing he CAN but here, he didn't bother. I think it's clear that Parker took this as rehearsal for her next turn as Carrie Bradshaw: again, no different from her series. None. It WAS Carrie, and it was scary.

What makes the Morgans as a pair so horrible is their cluelessness and vapid narcissism. When they arrived in Wyoming, they are taken by the sheriff and his wife (Sam Elliot and Mary Steenburgen) to the Bargain Barn (ie. "not" Costco or Sam's Club). There, they are AMAZED to find people actually pay $9 for sweaters! Only $9! There are even such things as TWO-FOR-ONE offers. The store is HUGE! Honey, we've discovered a whole new galaxy.

Who knew ANYTHING existed outside Connecticut? You mean there are people who are actually Republican? Who eat meat? Who watch John Wayne & Clint Eastwood movies? Who shoot guns without being criminals? Who knew such a world was out there?

It's beyond cliché, it's damn insulting. The people in Ray aren't as sophisticated (or frankly as smart) as those in NYC. Just see how the doctor (David Call) is portrayed: a bit of a bumpkin instead of someone with the intelligence a doctor requires. It's as if the screenplay came from a good sixty years ago. It makes one wonder just HOW something like this got a green-light.

Of course, during the course of the film, Paul & Meryl build their relationship and realize that they are meant to be together. Hands up if you didn't see that coming! Elliot and Steenburgen come off a lot better in the film even if their parts are small because they are more believable as actual people. She may be like Sarah Palin (one of the few funny moments), but if that's the case Palin may get MY vote. Yes, there were a few funny moments (though I wonder if seeing Grant sprayed with bear repellent isn't a little sadistic) but not enough to get over the clunky nature of the story or the sad state of affairs with the main character's acting. I found myself more intrigued with the story of the Morgan's assistants (Jesse Liebman and Elizabeth Moss) than in their employers and in Sheriff and Mrs. (Deputy) Wheeler than their charge.

In fact, my mind pursued a curious route. I thought about the possibilities of making a film about the assistants rather than the Morgans. I thought, how's this for a plot: throw out the murder angle (done to death--no pun intended). You make the sheriff and his wife actual cousins of Meryl, and she and Paul decide to rescue their marriage by going on a second honeymoon to their ranch. You have the culture clash AND the romance without bothering with hitmen...and give them a legitimate excuse to be out of town. Or how about this: the Morgans leave under mysterious circumstances, leaving their assistants Adam & Jackie to deal with their various businesses. Can they do it? Do they fall in love in the process? Yes, maybe it ain't the most original of plots, but then again, neither is Did You Hear About The Morgans?

What you end up with are two people you never really like, in a situation you don't really believe, working on a film you really don't laugh a lot at. If you've heard about the Morgans, you've heard them all.

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