Thursday, December 24, 2009

Do You Really Want to Hear About the Morgans?

Hello my dear blogettes. I hope this Christmas season finds you well and prosperous, and that you can find it in your heart to share some of that prosperity with me during my blogathon. It starts now and ends after this blog but may continue for another day or two depending on the motivation level in a post-Christmas world.

So, as you may have guessed, this blog deals with a certain recently released rom-com (for the uninducted this stands for romantic comedy) featuring SJP (Sarah Jessica Parker) as Meryl Morgan and Hugh Grant as Paul Morgan. A quick summary of the movie in my good friend Dave's words: "He's been stumbling through life as a charmingly befuddled d-bag... She's a horse-faced slut... But together they unexpectedly find the recipe for love..."

The movie doesn't even start before the laughs begin. A preview for the Jennifer Aniston action rom-com "The Bounty Hunter" precedes the movie, and I predict these two movies will compete for post-season honors on As the movie begins, Paul is repeatedly calling Meryl's answering machine, leaving sweet but wordy and misguided messages with the clear intent of reuniting with his estranged wife. The reason they're estranged? Sometimes movies imitate life, and Paul has cheated on his wife (although not with a hooker in the back of a car).

The first major scene in the movie features Paul stalking his wife at a charity dinner. She is the keynote speaker despite having zero talent for public speaking. The topic of her speech? An ironically foreboding talk about the fight against breast cancer reaching a "turning point" and a "make-or-break" time in their organization's fight for a cure. Paul listens intently and, after the speech, is the most convincing, polite, British yes-man ever played on screen. He never actually disagrees with Meryl, whose over-the-top high-strung personality clashes horribly with his. Throughout the movie, they are far more believable as the antagonistic, seperated couple than they are as a married couple living together. One wonders if a straight-to-video release may have been more appropriate for the flick.

As the plot thickens, Paul and Meryl walk to her client's home only to see the client murdered by a knife in the back. Of course, the hit man feels it necessary to stick around for awhile and stare at the Morgans; conveniently, he sees a picture of her on the cover of a magazine on his getaway. After some fish-out-of water jokes about her attire and business dealings, they quickly enter the witness protection program and are whisked off to Wyoming.

The directors evidently put the movie on auto-pilot at this point, as we while away a half hour watching Paul and Meryl adapt to Wyoming life. Placed in horribly contrived situations, they experience all the things that all rural people do: eat wild game, shoot rifles, ride horses, milk cows, visit the rodeo, and, of course, share themselves with the wonderfully quaint townfolk. The ultimate irony of this portion of the film is that Meryl at one point claims to be "allergic" to horses... could this be a sly dig at SJP's horse-like appearance on the part of the producers? Probably not, as that joke would be a bit over their heads.

One of the few saving graces of this film is that it parodies city folk, especially those of you who live in NYC. The Morgans' inability to fathom rural life comes up throughout the movie, for example as Meryl struggles to find a non-cocktail dress outfit to bring with her to Wyoming. Later, Meryl asks Wilford Brimley to blow his smoke in another direction, and they get a rude awakening to living in a rural town. Straight out of an episode of South Park, he states "we don't take kindly to out-of-towners coming in to town and tellin' us what to do" to which Paul replies "I hope we can be friends" in the most beseeching, submissive tone he can muster. And he musters a submissive tone amazingly well.

The New-York centric point of view continues later, as Meryl recalls an episode involving "Jarlsberg cheese from Zabar's" while recalling an incident in which Paul tried to humanely trap a mouse rather than slaughtering it (Meryl, of course, is a member of PETA). The humour (note how I spelled it!) continues until the very end, when the hitman tracks them down at a rodeo. Meryl and Paul, in a scene that reminds of their newly repaired relationship, hide inside a rodeo clown outfit. A charmingly self-harming Paul overcomes his fear to douse himself in bear repellent while attempting to disable the hitman. Despite his clumsy but well-meaning attempt, the couple has clearly endeared themself to the community, and they respond by pulling several guns on the hitman and knocking him unconscious with a horseshoe.

Can a movie get zero stars? Was this written by a junior high school student? Could Meryl's personal assistant's performance overcome an awful script to compete for year-end honors? Will there be a worse movie this year? I don't know, but to quote the movie, "we don't take kindly to movies like this around here." I'm also pretty sure there was a high school couple giving each other hand jobs in the back of the theatre... I have no doubt they were far more romantic than any movie with Sarah Jessica Parker could ever be.

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