Did You Hear About the Morgans? | Comedy | rated PG-13 (A,V) | starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Hugh Grant, Sam Elliot, Mary Steenburgen, Elizabeth Moss | directed by Marc Lawrence | 1:43 mins

An estranged couple trying to work things out accidently witness a murder that forces them in the witness protection program. Soon well-known realtor Meryl (Sarah Jessica Parker) and big-city lawyer Paul (Hugh Grant) are shipped off the the small town of Ray, Wyoming under the care of farmers Mary Steenburgen and Sam Elliot. At first horrified by their rustic surroundings, Paul takes the opportunity to try to win Meryl back just as an assassin is closing in on their whereabouts.

Did You Hear About the Morgans? is an unlikable and unpleasant movie that’s clunky mix of romance, fish-out-of-water comedy and assassin action would have been more at home in the 80s. A comedy that isn’t funny and a romance that isn’t romantic or believable for a second. Director Marc Lawrence who previously mis-cast Hugh Grant in Two Weeks Notice and Music & Lyrics really mis-casts him here. It is a shame how unlikable and wildly out of place he feels because Grant seems to be the only actually approaching Morgans as a comedy, going for a dry, deadpan approach to squeeze a laugh out of the material. And occasionally it almost works.

Have you ever wondered what it might be like if Carrie Bradshaw was transplanted from New York to rural middle America? That’s exactly how Sarah Jessica Parker comes to this movie. Only it’s Bizarro Carrie, spoiled rotten, stripped of any human relatability and all of that sing-songy Sex and the City dialog. Meryl is insufferably unpleasant. The otherwise lightweight film drags in infidelity and all sorts of real world terrible things that Paul and Meryl did to each other as an explanation for their divorce without any idea of how that sours us on the idea that they should be together at all. Put both of these characters together and you get a romantic comedy trying to get us to root for this match made in hell. Not going to happen. For the record, the May-December marriage of Sam Elliot and Mary Steenburgen is equally contrived. But that’s par for the course for the movie’s view that New York is the center of the universe and rural America is an alien land of cowboy hats, John Wayne fans and roaming bears.

Lawrence sleepwalks through this studio work. The movie is oddly silent and stilted as if he fell asleep and left the camera running after the scene had ended. Or set up the joke, but forgot to cue the punchline. Or didn’t bother to add the kind of light, bubbly music you’d expect to set the tone of a comedy. Morgans isn’t painfully bad. But it doesn’t snap like a comedy should. Instead it drags like a big, clunky mechanical studio movie with a bunch of rusty parts and an equally mechanical and stereotypical view of middle-American life.