By John Mulderig
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — Not for the first time on screen, blue-state sophisticates discover the joys of red-state down-home living in the pleasant, if largely predictable, romantic comedy "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" (Columbia/Relativity). In this case though, their enforced retreat to the wilds of the High Plains also gives dyed-in-the-wool New Yorkers Paul (Hugh Grant) and Meryl (Sarah Jessica Parker) Morgan the chance to reassess their recently strained union.
Hotshot real estate agent Meryl has shown high-powered lawyer Paul the door for being unfaithful to her during a West Coast business trip. Paul deeply regrets his one-time-only mistake. But his efforts to reunite go nowhere until the separated, though not yet divorced, pair is thrown back together when they accidentally witness the contract killing of an arms dealer who was one of Meryl’s clients.
With their lives in danger — the murderer (Michael Kelly) got a look at them, too, and Meryl’s face is on ads all over town — the couple has no choice but to enter the witness protection program which abruptly relocates them to the one-gas-station town of Ray, Wyo. Once there, they’re sheltered, and shielded, by no-nonsense local sheriff and federal marshal Clay Wheeler (Sam Elliott) and his gun-toting wife, Emma (Mary Steenburgen).
As Paul and Meryl find out what a starry sky looks like outside a planetarium and learn just how much fun the annual rodeo dance can be, they have an opportunity to reconnect and overcome Meryl’s recent but deep-seated mistrust. Particularly effective is a scene in which they recall the nontraditional wedding vows they exchanged; hers drawn from a Shakespearean sonnet, his self-written, and only slightly marred by one of the script’s few resorts to vaguely sexual humor.
While, as part of her urban persona, Meryl identifies herself as an agnostic, there’s little conviction behind the declaration, and it’s further undercut when, in the scene referenced above, Paul acknowledges his belief in, and prayer to, the God she doubts.
Though writer-director Marc Lawrence’s fish-out-of-water tale necessarily features extensive discussion of the negative effects of infidelity, and also includes considerable talk about the spouses’ efforts to conceive, these topics are dealt with in a restrained way, and genuinely objectionable material is mostly absent. Off-color language, for instance, is pretty well restricted to a single use of the S-word and a British slang exclamation drawn from Paul when he fires a rifle for the first time.
As a result, this unabashed celebration of marital love and family life — the straightforward values underlying the comedy are embodied by Clay and Emma’s long-standing mutual dedication, which Paul and Meryl eventually seek to emulate — is probably acceptable for older teens, despite the elements listed below.
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Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.
The film contains adultery and infertility themes, off-screen marital lovemaking, a few mildly sexual jokes and at least one crude and one crass term. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.