If you are a regular reader here, you know I’m not much for the romantic comedy department. I tried to pass this one off on the rest of the staff but couldn’t find a taker. We finally got a woman to review this stuff, but not even she was enthused enough about this title to take it on. This experience is pretty typical when it comes to Did You Hear About The Morgans. With a $58 million budget and a $30 million gross at the box office, it would seem that a lot of folks took a pass on the movie. In less than 4 weeks it dropped from nearly 3000 screens across the fruited plain to just about 500. We’re not talking about an unknown cast here. The real mystery is, why did such an impressive cast take this movie on? Hugh Grant is pretty well known, if not for his movies, then for his back seat antics with a hooker. So, his judgment should already be in question. I mean, who would give up Elizabeth Hurley for a 20 dollar hooker? Sarah Jessica Parker has been riding pretty high on her Sex In The City fame. Perhaps she was just trying to solidify a romantic comedy image here. Both made horrible choices here, and neither generated a character worth caring about. What’s worse, the two share no chemistry and even a devout romantic comedy avoider like me knows enough to understand that the two most important elements in the genre are chemistry and characters that you feel something for.
Paul and Meryl (Grant & Parker) are a married couple who have been separated for three years because Paul had an affair. Both are highly successful in their chosen fields. Paul is the senior partner in a prestigious law firm and Meryl runs a very elite real estate agency. Paul wants to patch things up, but Meryl is not so sure. So the two agree to meet for a date and see if they can talk about their situation. The dinner date doesn’t go very well and is completely ruined when the two witness the murder of a man who was about to turn state’s evidence. Now their relationship issues are the least of their problems. The killer knows who they are (Meryl’s picture is pasted everywhere from billboards to bus stations) and he’s not about to let them testify against him. Enter the Witness Protection Program. The two are given new names (The Fosters) and sent to rural Ray, Wyoming where the local sheriff happens to be a Federal Marshall who has experience protecting witnesses. Marshall Clay Wheeler (Elliott) and his wife Emma (Steenburgen) are simple folk who live miles from civilization, making their home the perfect place to hide the couple. Now forced together, the two have to deal with their relationship issues to save their own lives. You know the killer’s going to track them down, and through the carelessness of the couple’s two personal assistants and Meryl’s inability to stay off the phone, he tracks them down.
The whole “fish out of water” routine has been around for ages. It can be a very effective vehicle if you have the right cast and the right circumstances. Unfortunately, this movie offers us nothing we haven’t seen before in far superior movies. It doesn’t help that the leads just don’t come across as very believable. Parker is the most annoying. I find it hard to believe that such a crybaby woman would ever have been the real estate kingpin she is supposed to be. Grant tries his best to look cute and offers only a boyish glance or two that might have worked better when he was 20 years younger. Director Marc Lawrence relies too much on his mismatched couple, and it costs him dearly. Neither character is deserving of our pity. The film plods along far too long, playing out the same single punch line for far too long. The killer doesn’t even catch up with them until there are only 14 minutes left in the film, and 5 of those are for the credits. The resolution is so quick and stupid that you can’t imagine what we were ever building toward. It’s all about as predictable as movies can get, with the expected “perfectly pat” ending, of course.
The true bright spots in the film are the criminally underused Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen as the couple charged with protecting the two leads. Now here you’ll find plenty of chemistry and solid performances. Has Sam Elliott ever delivered a less than superb performance? I think not. Lawrence would have been better to focus the film more on that couple. We could have had something special there. It’s only because of them that I believe you might want to rent the film just to have a look see.
Did You Hear About The Morgans is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec at an average 30 mbps. There are moments when the image is pretty spectacular. The Wyoming vistas are truly breathtaking, and the image does a fine job of getting that beauty into your home theater. Lawrence did a nice job of changing the image up a bit between the New York locations and those filmed in Wyoming. New York has a razor sharp and very glossy look to it, while Wyoming carries plenty of earth tones and a bit of a softer image. That doesn’t mean that the picture is inferior at all here. There is just a rather nice ambient quality to the effect that gives you a nice feeling for the contrast between the two environments. Black levels are excellent here, and contrast is sweet in both locations. There is a scene where the couple is admiring the stars in the open plains of Wyoming, and they are quite beautiful. I got to experience the view myself once on a road trip through the Arizona desert, and this was the closest thing to the real deal you’ll see.
The DTS-HD Master 5.1 audio does pretty much what it is supposed to do. The surrounds just aren’t used to the effect they could have been. You never find yourself there with the audio as much as you do on the image side o this presentation. The tone is so loaded with mids that it actually gets tiresome at times. You can hear the dialog just fine, but there are a lot of inconsistent levels here.
All of the features are presented in an MPEG-2 Quasi high definition.
Location Location Location: (18:13) You get the typical cast and crew sound bites here with plenty of clips from the film you likely just viewed. We learn that the film was written specifically for Hugh Grant, which isn’t too surprising considering that Marc Lawrence has used the star several times before. For a comedy, there’s sure a lot of talk about misery here, particularly from Grant. He must be such a joy to work with … Not. He doesn’t appear to like anything at all, except perhaps hookers. The piece ends with a compare and contrast segment on the two locations.
Cowboys And Cosmopolitans: (8:05) Grant and Parker spend a lot of this time talking about how great the other was. Then the rest of the cast and crew join what amounts to a mutual admiration society meeting. There’s at least a ton of behind the camera footage which also brings us some bloopers and outtakes.
Park Avenue Meets The Prairie: (5:02) Christopher Peterson was the film’s costume designer, and it was his first film being the top guy. He talks about outfitting the characters, particularly Parker.
A Bear Of A Scene: (5:21) Meet the real bear from the movie. He just might have been one of the more dynamic performers in the movie. Check out some behind the scenes bear footage with the cast and trainer.
Deleted Scenes: (4:30) There are 2 with a play all option.
International Special: (13:46) It’s really just a promo piece used to market the film outside of The United States. Much of the interview material is duplicated exactly from the first feature.
Even true diehard romantic comedy fans will find this less filling than they might be hoping for. The film just never clicks, and it doesn’t even offer up any of the fairy tale stuff that fans of the genre are looking for. I suspect the whole murder plot was intended to broaden the appeal and maybe get more guys into the film. Instead it likely turns away the “chick flick” crowd ands doesn’t provide enough of said action to engage the guys. It’s all really filler with no direction. “There’s a lot of bull, and that ain’t no bull.”