By STEVE PERSALL
Times Film Critic
Did You Hear About the Morgans?
Perhaps, but not for long. This unromantic, alleged comedy starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant as an unhappily married couple forced into a witness protection program will be box office roadkill by New Year's Eve.
And why not? There isn't anything in this movie that people haven't paid to see before in movies like New in Town and The Proposal, and they'll probably wish they had that money back for holiday shopping.
This is another movie in which snobby urbanites treat overly eccentric country living with condescension until the simple life reveals its folksy charms, this time in Wyoming. The outsiders are astonished by politeness and a starry night, can't sleep without traffic noise and can't breathe since the air's too clean. There's an animal (in this case, a bear) testing the man's mettle, and women who enjoy hunting wild animals bending the woman's vegetarian beliefs.
Yes, there are Sarah Palin and PETA jokes. They aren't funny, either. Since that kind of movie is old hat, writer-director Marc Lawrence — now officially career-hitched to Grant after three movies — crams in another. The subplot about the Morgans being chased by a mob killer (just one . . . it's a small mob, I guess) interrupts vapid humor with tepid tension.
Waiting for Grant to complete his signature stammering and finish a sentence provides more suspense. The only time Parker appears in genuine distress occurs when she's caught in a rain shower and her hairdo is ruined.
Did You Hear About the Morgans? is rote mediocrity, continually spoiling plot points since they're identical to so many past movies; the heroes' assistants will bicker but fall in love, a spray can of bear repellent will come in handy when the killer catches up, probably at the rodeo everyone's talking about.
And you know a movie is short on solid comedy ideas when Larry the Cable Guy boasted a better title for essentially the same premise a year ago: Witless Protection.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs. tampabay.com/movies.