December 18, 2009 in Features

‘Morgans’ fails to achieve even low-comic quality

Colin Covert Minneapolis Star Tribune
Columbia Pictures photo

Hugh Grant, right, and Sarah Jessica Parker star in “Have You Heard About the Morgans?” Columbia Pictures
(Full-size photo)

Alas, Hugh Grant, it has come to this.

Most of his previous films have exploited Grant’s flippant charm. But “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” has no snap, no frolicsome energy.

It’s an exhausted movie; he and co-star Sarah Jessica Parker can’t work up the charge they gave to their earlier work. You get the sense they’re not even making a serious, honorable try.

They play Paul and Meryl, estranged New Yorkers who witness a murder and are forced into uneasy togetherness when the witness-protection program ships them to cowboy country.

As they adjust to life way out west, the effete Morgans bumble through encounters with gruff ranchers and aggressive bears, but the lame-brained jokes never take you anywhere you’d want to go.

Grant is dutiful and passive as Paul. He delivers his dialogue with a delicate wince that is meant to italicize its attempted ironies.

When he learns that their safe house is in Ray, Wyoming, Paul asks: “Is that near Phil, Wyoming?” With lines like that littering the script, you wonder what they cut out.

As the rugged-individualist sheriff assigned to protect them, Sam Elliott smiles his kindly grandpa smiles and lets his handlebar mustache do most of the acting. There are no characters here, just mannerisms.

Writer/director Marc Lawrence had broad, low-comedy hits with the Sandra Bullock movies “Miss Congeniality” and “Two Weeks Notice.” This one is a painful failure, lumpish and crude.

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