ANY connoisseur of contemporary romantic comedy knows better than to expect too much deviation from the formula. If a couple is on the outs, some wacky adversity will inevitably arise, drawing them together until they gradually realise that yadda, yadda, yadda. The fun is not in kicking expectations but in their fulfilment.
One thing is a given: that the actors will take at least some small pleasure in the snappy sparring that leads to their characters’ eventual reconciliation.
So why do Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker, as remorseful adulterer Paul Morgan and his soon-to-be ex-wife, Meryl, look so gosh-darned miserable in Did You Hear About the Morgans, an exercise in foregone conclusions so dreary as to hardly qualify as comedy? For much of the film – in which the titular estranged couple is forced into hiding in remotest Wyoming after witnessing a murder in Manhattan – the look on Parker’s face is one of such Dostoevskian unhappiness, even for a woman who has been cheated on, that frankly she’s a little hard to watch.
And Grant – who in his two previous outings with writerdirector Marc Lawrence ( Two Weeks Notice and Music and Lyrics) could at least be relied on to look roguish and tousled – comes across as perpetually worried and puffy-eyed here, as if he just pulled an all-nighter in an emergency room.
Whether they’re dealing with a tame-looking grizzly bear or the strangely incompetent hit man (Michael Kelly) who’s trying to rub them out, the Morgans whine. And if they’re not having fun, how are we supposed to?
It doesn’t help that the film is riddled with fish-out-of-water cliches. The Morgans are wealthy, liberal smarty-pantses. Their Hicksville hosts – played by Mary Steenburgen and, for God’s sake, Sam Elliott, sporting a moustache that almost deserves separate billing – are working-class, conservative rubes.
Did you hear about the Morgans? Trust me, you don’t want to. – Washington Post