May 152010
 

Every couple of weeks there is a ‘fresh’ new romantic-comedy released, that hopes to win over the hearts of the female movie-goer, and this month that job falls to Did You Hear About The Morgans?; a film about a separated couple who are forced into witness protection, after stumbling across a murder in progress, while out for a walk one night.

Before that murder takes place, Meryl (Sarah Jessica Parker, Striking Distance) and Paul Morgan (Hugh Grant, Love Actually) are introduced as a typical, successful, Manhattan couple; she runs her own real estate business, while he’s a big-time downtown lawyer; who have recently separated as a result of Paul’s infidelity. Paul is extremely remorseful from the film’s outset, and clearly wants to patch things up with his wife, who is clearly trying to move on with things, but after witnessing the murder, and being attacked at her home, Meryl has no choice but to live in close contact with Paul; as they enter witness protection together.

The pair find themselves in Ray, Wyoming; a very small country town; where they must try to blend in, as the local U.S. Marshall’s cousins; the Fosters;  and as part of their cover they end up staying the the Marshall and his wife (who also happens to be a U.S. Marshall); Clay and Emma Wheeler (Tombstone’s Sam Elliott, and Back to the Future: Part III’s Mary Steenburgen, respectively); who couldn’t be more different than the city dwelling, gun-hating, vegetarian, Morgans; with their obsession for stuffed animal heads, guns, meat, and love of all things country (including the whole modern cowboy way of life; rodeos, horse riding, and the Dirty Harry era, Clint Eastwood, movies), instantly making the Morgans feel uncomfortable and alone.

From then on, the film is basically a series of short (and not all that funny) comedy sketches, whereby the Morgans are introduced to another aspect of country life that they either didn’t expect, or didn’t appreciate (from horse riding and buying cheap clothes, to seeing people with multiple jobs, who know everybody in town, and suffering from a slight bear attack), and all the time growing closer, and attempting to patch up their marital difficulties, whilst back in New York, the killer searches for a way to track the pair down; which he inevitably does, in a never-to-serious manner that puts the Morgans in little real danger, and simply serves as a platform for them to have certain revelations about their relationship, and the town of Ray.

Hugh Grant plays his typical Hugh Grant role in the film; the posh, and slightly bumbling, Englishman that’s a little bit dry witted, not terribly good at relationships, and doesn’t tend to make friends that easily; a performance that anyone who is vaguely familiar with his work (or ITV repeats) will have undoubtedly seen a dozen times before, in movies such as Two Weeks Notice, Notting Hill, and About a Boy, a performance that can be pretty much phoned in by now, and will not earn him any real praise or new fans, but one that will still please his die-hard followers.

Sarah Jessica Parker is similarly dull, but more awkward to watch than Hugh Grant, as she never seems entirely believable in conveying any sort of emotion (anger, fear, love, humour), and suffers from being a fairly poor actor when compared to the rest of the cast, particularly the supporting members, such as Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen, who give clearly the best, and funniest performances in the entire movie.

In the end though, Did You Hear About the Morgans? is another romantic comedy that fails to capture the imagination, providing a myriad of rather unfunny jokes, strung together with a not only predictable, but dull, and childish, plot that’s more reminiscent of an Ernest Goes to School type movie than any seriously funny, new, rom-com, and one that will only be really enjoyed by Hugh Grant’s die-hard fan base, as there are much better romantic comedies being released almost every other week.

Picture:

The picture, which comes by way of a full 1080p transfer, does fair slightly better, as the video contains great contrast levels, and a warm colour palette that is befitting of the genre, as well as a terrific level of clarity in the outdoor scenes (which are generally the best looking in the entire film) that really improves that level of depth to the picture; which despite it’s good qualities, is actually pretty inconsistent.

The black levels are less than stellar, and rather unstable; looking merely dark grey in some scenes, but then suddenly shooting up and appearing quite deep (which hinders the performances of the darker, and night-time scenes), as well as the picture generally softening out and appearing much flatter than its best moments for large sections of the film, and having fleshtones that always look rather warm; sometimes excessively so; doesn’t help matters.

But overall the picture quality is pretty good, and anyone who likes the film isn’t likely to be fussed by the transfer’s issues; which let the quality down somewhat, and stop it from being considering as reference quality material, despite having a good level of detail, great contrast, and some rather stunning shots.

Audio:

Like the picture, the sound quality for Did You Hear About The Morgans? (which has been given a 5.1 DTS HD-MA mix) is marginally good, but does has its issues; as whilst the dialogue is precise, clear, and well leveled against all the films other sounds, there is little else to the mix; bass hardly makes an impact (because it really isn’t needed for this feature), and although there are some decent ambient noises at times (mainly consisting of wildlife, from the outdoors shots), the presence of such noises doesn’t always feel completely naturalistic, and generally isn’t that noticeable. Meaning that overall the only sounds that come out of the DTS HD-MA mix on the disc, are the well leveled dialogue; it serves the film well, and is always clear, but never very immersive, and always easily forgettable.

Extras:

The blu-ray disc does come with a fair few special features, that consist of an audio commentary featuring director Marc Lawrence (Music and Lyrics), Hugh Grant, and Sarah Jessica Parker; which is a pretty dreary account of some on set anecdotes, and a little bit of information about the films production; a making of featurette; which is a fairly run-of-the-mill affair, consisting of cast and crew interviews as well as some behind the scenes footage, and is easy enough to watch; as well as a couple of other small featurettes that cover the ‘chemistry’ between the two leads, working with wild animals, and the costume design.

There are also a short collection of deleted scenes (non of which are amusing in the slightest), a standard promotional EPK that is pretty redundant as it covers the same material as many of the other features, and as well as some trailers, there is a collection of outtakes (which are oddly enough funnier than the main film itself), the option to connect to BD-Live, and movieIQ.

It’s a fairly extensive collection, especially for a romantic comedy, although no-one but a real fan of the film (and there probably won’t be that many of them) are going to get anything out of the features (except for possibly the outtakes), as they generally seem like a bit of a chore to watch.

The Bottom Line:

In the end, Did You Hear About The Morgans? is basically a waste of a film; as it simply fails to compete in a genre that is already overpopulated with a whole host of average (usually at best) movies, and in a genre where there are so many releases, yet so few real stand-out films, Did You Hear About The Morgans? feels like more of a bad stop gap to a better (but probably still average) rom-com, that will most likely be released in a week or two.

The plot feels like something out of a children’s movie, and there are probably only about two one-liners in the whole film that are actually funny (one of the film’s highlights was actually hearing the Top-Gear theme tune in one scene), Hugh Grant once again delivers a performance that should have been considered old some time ago, and Sarah Jessica Parker is extremely bland, although Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen do lend a certain degree of credibility to the film, and deliver adequate performances.

The picture quality rests on the upper side of average (where the audio sits), but does have its problems, and as the extras are mostly a waste of time, there’s no real reason (unless you’re a massive Hugh Grant fan) to buy this disc; if you’re looking for a better Hugh Grant movie, then Notting Hill, or Love Actually, should be top of the pile, or for something more fun and raunchy try The Ugly Truth, or alternatively, for people who want something fun and original from the romantic comedy genre, 500 Days of Summer is definitely the way to go.