A somewhat amusing yet trite example of the modern-day screwball comedy, Marc Lawrence’s Did You Hear About the Morgans? first begins with a now-separated Manhattan couple—the bigwig, sort-of-famous realtor Meryl Morgan (Sarah Jessica Parker) and corporate lawyer Paul Morgan (Hugh Grant)—witnessing the brutal killing of one of Meryl’s clients. After the gunman attempts to kill Meryl the next day, the shaken ex-lovebirds are briefed by federal agents and placed into the witness relocation program in middle-of-nowhere Wyoming. Soon the two come across an assortment of jolly, meat-eating, small-town folk who are eager to teach them the ways of true country living and what it takes to make a marriage work.
As well-worn farce, Morgans is pretty much The Proposal with a dash of Witness. Not nearly as anal-retentive as Sandra Bullock in the former though, Parker treads water with a completely one-note part, with Grant feeling like he’s lost all ability to muster a charmed quip. It might not be totally their fault, as writer-director Lawrence gives their hackneyed characters no sense of emotional transformation: Because the couple’s prior infidelity, like their past happy times, is only fleetingly mentioned and never movingly conjured into the story, the audience hardly ever grasps the magnitude of their marital divergence. And the ham-fisted, rodeo-show standoff at the end when the gunman finally tracks them down is all contrived afterthought, ending more in a whimper than a bang. Surprisingly, though, Lawrence manages to refreshingly capture the earthiness of the story’s small Wyoming town, which is fittingly substantiated by go-to performers Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen, who play the warm, welcoming sheriff and his gun-toting wife, respectively.