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Originally published December 17, 2009 at 8:51 AM | Page modified December 17, 2009 at 11:01 AM

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Movie review

'Did You Hear About the Morgans?': This fish-out-of-water comedy should be thrown back

A review of "Did You Hear About the Morgans?," a romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker, two actors whose charms make no appearance in this movie.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 1.5 stars

'Did You Hear About the Morgans?,' with Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen, Elisabeth Moss, Michael Kelly, Wilford Brimley. Written and directed by Marc Lawrence. 108 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and momentary violence. Several theaters; see Page 16.

In the flat romantic comedy "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" writer/ director Marc Lawrence at least got the casting right: Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker, on paper at least, sound as if they should create charming, funny sparks. But once he's put them together, Lawrence seems to just stand back and wait for something to happen, like a scientist who's combined two elements and is expecting an explosion. I saw the movie early this week, and I'm still waiting; presumably Grant and Parker are too.

Lawrence, in his brief directing career (this is his third feature), has made something of a science of matching the debonairly wry Grant with sweet, witty partners, and the actor clicked nicely with Sandra Bullock in "Two Weeks Notice" and Drew Barrymore in "Music and Lyrics." Though neither movie was anything to write home about, rom-com wise, they had snappy moments and were no hardship to watch. Grant never seemed to be trying very hard — I remember writing, of "Two Weeks Notice," that it seemed as if he wasn't so much acting as conducting an exceptionally charming personal appearance tour — but that's part of his breezy appeal.

Unfortunately, in "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" nobody seems to be trying very hard, particularly Lawrence, who's cobbled the screenplay together from a hundred other stale fish-out-of-water comedies. Grant and Parker play Paul and Meryl Morgan, an estranged New York power couple who have the great misfortune of witnessing a murder and thus becoming the immediate targets of a hit man. They're whisked into the witness protection program and sent to Ray, Wyo., a place populated by bears, rodeo cowboys and no Saks Fifth Avenue.

And, well ... nothing much happens for the next 90 minutes, except that Meryl learns to shoot, Paul doesn't learn how to use bear repellent and there's much whining along the lines of "what if we never see Lincoln Center again?" Nobody is given much of a personality (except for one particularly condescendingly written character, a small-town nurse/dingbat), and even the basso tones of Sam Elliott, as the sheriff who takes in Meryl and Paul, can't say anything memorable. There is precisely one treat in this film: Grant deliciously pronouncing "Applebee's," as if it's two words ending in a calligraphic curlicue. Otherwise, toss this one on the ever-growing pile of failed Hollywood romantic comedies, and wish Grant and Parker better luck next time.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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