You like to assume that no one sets out to make a mediocre movie, but with Did You Hear About The Morgans?, its utter blandness and predictably seem to be precisely the effect the filmmakers were going for. You can anticipate every beat, every joke and Hugh Grant shrug, every time Sarah Jessica Parker will get all shrill and every time she'll gaze at him like Carrie Bradshaw at a pair of Manolos. In other words, you get exactly what you pay for. It's hard to imagine why you'd want to pay to be talked down to and coddled like a baby, but director Marc Lawrence (Music and Lyrics, Two Weeks Notice) sure won't go broke offering you the chance.
Living the kind of posh, wealthy lives that Parker spent years fetishizing on Sex and the City, Meryl and Paul Morgan are in the process of a divorce but still agree to have a romantic dinner-- Paul cheated, you see, and wants to win Meryl back, which you need to know in case you somehow haven't already figured out how this ends. After dinner Meryl and Paul accidentally witness a murder, and before she can figure out that a sparkly dress won't be needed in the Witness Protection Program, Meryl and Paul are shipped off to Ray, Wyoming, where they'll bunk with salt-of-the-earth types Clay and Emma Wheeler (Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen, of course) until either the killer or more suitable arrangements can be found.
There are jokes about running away from bears and how cheap sweaters can be at Costco and an actually funny line about Steenburgen resembling Sarah Palin, but then there's also Paul and Meryl's inexorable return to one another's arms, which will get ruined just before the third-act finale that sends us all home. Even with the killer tailing them thanks to the help of their unwitting assistants (Elisabeth Moss, who really deserves better, and Jesse Liebman), there's absolutely no suspense, because Did You Hear About The Morgans? telegraphs from the very beginning that this is the kind of movie in which nothing bad can happen to anyone. Even when Wilford Brimley shows up as an ancient, cranky local, you know he's safe-- this movie can't take the time for real emotion amid its comedic setpieces and squabbles between Paul and Meryl.
There are enough laughs scattered throughout to keep the experience from ever being miserable-- Parker remains a gifted physical comedienne, and Grant runs through his entire career's worth of sarcastic one-liners in this one film. There's zero chemistry between the two of them, but they spend so much time learning to ride horses and shoot guns and wear cowboy hats that it doesn't really matter. The film at least goes easy on down-home wisdom-- Paul and Meryl may learn to love each other again out in the wilderness, but they are New Yorkers to the bone.
Opening against Avatar with the clear intention of bringing in women turned off by the blue cat people, the greatest crime of Did You Hear About The Morgans? is that it gives unadventurous audiences an excuse to avoid the truly remarkable film opening against it. Catch it on DVD in a few months, though, and I won't hold it against you. There are only so many good romantic comedies in the world, and you can do worse than this one, mediocre to its core.