Did You Hear About the Morgans? Marc Lawrence

Did You Hear About the Morgans? Marc Lawrence
I have been spending my entire life watching actors get humorously scared by bears in slapstick comedies, from Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush to the Three Stooges and Abbott and Costello in seemingly hundreds of films from the '40s and '50s. And in my humble opinion, the gag is starting to lose its lustre. Sorry, but I have seen every possible variation. This became painfully apparent to me during Did You Hear About the Morgans?, in which Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker play a wealthy, estranged NYC couple who are sent to Wyoming under the Witness Protection Program after witnessing a murder. The city vs. country jokes come fast and furious and fail one by one until finally, as a last resort, writer/director Marc Lawrence brings out the bear. Grant bumbles and fumbles with fear, while an equally panicked Parker yells conflicting, incoherent instructions: "Run!" "Don't Run!" etc. Maybe it's just that Grant delivers every single line of dialogue regardless of tone with the same befuddled, confused facial expression, but there is a whiff of sadness to his entire performance that becomes especially pungent in this scene. Everything about his recycled, one-note acting suggests a man who knows this material is beneath him. What were Grant and Parker thinking when they signed on to this relentlessly predictable culture clash comedy set in a small town so old fashioned it might be better suited to a David Lynch production? What would you think if I told you that Sam Elliot plays the town marshal, who is also the announcer at the rodeo and a farmer (presumably to incorporate some cow milking gags)? Or that his video collection consists only of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood? Did You Hear About the Morgans? is remarkable in the way it panders to every audience: if you're a city person, country folk are dim-witted, backwards, ill-mannered, culturally illiterate and overly fond of fatty foods; if you're a country person, city folk are uptight, out-of-touch, godless elitists. Come to think of it, I daresay Marc Lawrence is less a panderer than a straight-up misanthrope. Extras include a giggly audio commentary by Grant, Parker and Lawrence, along with a documentary in which all the interviewees drastically overestimate the chemistry between the leads. I did, however, appreciate Sam Elliot's comment, "I happen to think it's luck of the draw these western characters keep comin' my way." Maybe, but I still think it's a shame we may never see his Othello. (Sony)