Andy Bockelman: ‘Morgans’ is a little bit country, a little bit demeaning

Andy Bockelman

Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press. Contact him at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

Find more columns by Bockelman here.

‘Did You Hear About the Morgans?’

Rating: 1.5 stars out of 4 stars

Length: 103 minutes

Starring: Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen.

We’ve all heard that spreading rumors is bad. And given its gossipy title, “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” is about what you’d expect.

Paul and Meryl Morgan (Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker) are a New York power couple who are on the outs. Meryl has more than moved on from their marriage, which has nearly ended legally, but Paul refuses to give up without a fight.

No matter how much he begs, Meryl won’t take him back, but they have bigger problems when they witness a murder. And the suspect (Michael Kelly) has little trouble tracking them down in the city because of their business renown.

The only option for the Morgans is to retreat into hiding under the protective custody of the FBI. Together.

Meryl’s reluctance isn’t limited to being stuck with her husband, though. Neither of them are pleased to find that they will be relocated to the microscopic town of Ray, Wyo.

But as these city slickers acclimate to country life, they find themselves being drawn together.

Grant is no stranger to screwball comedies in which he serves as the buffoon — see “Nine Months,” “Mickey Blue Eyes,” etc. — and his familiarity with the job shows here. But he seems incredibly disinterested the entire time, blurting out pithy rejoinders with all the refinement of a handful of buckshot.

Speaking of which, hearing this Manhattan milquetoast whine about the recoil from a shotgun is agony.

Parker isn’t much easier to like as his shrill wife, who’s just Carrie Bradshaw with a ring on her finger. But who can’t empathize with someone who complains about the night being “too quiet” and the air being “too clean?”

At least they somehow manage to make each other look better, as if it were a competition to see who can be the most tiresome.

The other couples are much better, if for no other reason than they aren’t the stars.

Elisabeth Moss and Jesse Liebman invoke some laughs as Meryl and Paul’s squabbling personal assistants, left high and dry by their departure.

Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen also are pleasant as Federal Marshal Clay Wheeler and his deputy/spouse, Emma, providing a fine, folksy presence as the couple that takes in the Morgans.

And unlike certain other minor characters in this fictitious Wyoming burg, they’re not portrayed as naïve small-town hicks.

The town of Ray and its residents are not completely stereotypical in this fish-out-of-water story, but they do border on being pretty hackneyed.

For those who haven’t been to the Equality State, let’s clear up some misconceptions: No, not all people in Wyoming leave keys in their cars at all times in case anybody needs to borrow it.

Yes, people in the state watch movies starring actors other than John Wayne. And no, they don’t indiscriminately hate outsiders, though it’s easy to abhor the New Yorkers in town, whether or not they vote Democrat or have PETA membership.

And unlike their generally friendly Wyoming foils, the socialites look much more backward, dumbfounded by the wonder of retailer Bargain Barn and forever fearful about running into bears in their new surroundings. But the culture clash is limited to mild jokes, precious few of which land well and never push any real boundaries. All of this is very inoffensive, and consequently, quite boring.

“Did You Hear About the Morgans?” is far too bland to categorize as being horrible, but it surely doesn’t qualify as something you absolutely have to see.

However, if “Green Acres” reruns haven’t sated your thirst for urban folks in a rural setting, then have at it.

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