Did You Hear About The Morgans? (PG)

Comedy fails to hit the target

I'm loath to kick off the new year with a moan, so let me state for the record that a full hour of the romantic comedy Did You Hear about the Morgans? had passed before I glanced at my watch. In truth the concluding 40 minutes went much less swiftly, as the intermittent laughs dried up and the plot degenerated into silliness and soppiness, but up to that point the antics of Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant had reached, if not a plateau of comic excellence, at least an acceptable level of mildly amusing gaucherie.

Yes, I know, it's hardly a ringing endorsement, but then the writer-director Marc Lawrence has never pushed himself to be anything other than a jobbing schedule-filler. Hugh Grant evidently responds to him, all the same – they worked together on the so-so Music and Lyrics and the awful Two Weeks Notice – and runs through his embarrassed-Englishman schtick with aplomb. He plays Paul Morgan, who's desperately trying to save his marriage to Meryl (Sarah Jessica Parker) following the revelation of his one-night stand. So they are walking through Manhattan one evening from a failed rapprochement dinner when they witness a contract murder. The killer gets a good look at them, too, so the authorities bundle the couple for their own safety into the Witness Protection Scheme.

Their assigned bolt-hole turns out to be nowheresville, Wyoming, a tiny town where the necks are red, the valleys are green and the boots come with rhinestones on them. In other words, a perfect hell for two upscale city slickers like them. They are also houseguests of the local marshal (Sam Elliott) and his gun-toting wife (Mary Steenburgen), who've seen these spoilt urbanites before and listen to their marital bickering with the serenity of the Gods looking down on humankind from Olympus. The contrast between town and country has been teed up: would you be surprised to learn that through the innocent folksy pleasures of riding, shooting and playing bingo the Morgans inch their way towards reconciliation?

Grant and Parker, without veering a micrometre from their established personas, catch the comic rhythm and go through the motions with tolerable expertise: he gets chased by a bear and muses winningly on rural ways ("It's so quiet out here I can hear my cells dividing"), while she does her I-can't-believe-this-is-happening-to-me kvetching familiar from one C Bradshaw in a long-running TV series; indeed, I recall an episode where she goes for a weekend in the country and makes more or less the same plaintive noises – "a neurotic woodpecker", as she nicely puts it. But would it be ungallant to suggest that both of them are getting a little long in the tooth for such romantic hoopla? They look more like people trying to stave off the ghosts of middle age (and previous marriages) rather than falling out over his first-ever infidelity. The late scene at the rodeo where they disguise themselves as the front and back end of a panto horse could be a tremendous coup of self-deprecation, but one never feels sure if they're really in on the joke. I wonder if either will grow old as charmingly as Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen, whose relaxed playing feels almost like a rebuke to the star pair's babyish spats. Did You Hear about the Morgans? isn't a contemptible use of your time, but the follow-up question looms all too readily – "...and do you care?"

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz