Did You Hear About the Morgans? (2009)

Rated: PG-13 for some sexual references and momentary violence.
Length: 103 minutes
Grade: C+C+B+C=C+
Budget: $58 million
Box Office: $85 million (30 U.S., 50 Intl., 5 DVD)

Written and Directed by: Marc Lawrence (Music and Lyrics and Two Weeks Notice. He also wrote Miss Congeniality 1 & 2, The Out-of-Towners, and 31 episodes of Family Ties)
Starring: Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker.
With: Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen, and Wilford Brimley

A professionally successful but martially separated New York couple must enter Witness Protection and relocate to a small Wyoming town when they become witnesses to a murder. Hating it at first, they eventually grow to recognize the values of their temporary home and even recover their own marriage in the process.

Entertainment Value: C+
Despite starring Sarah Jessica Parker (for whom I have a pathological dislike, which I’m sure many of you would also admit about Hugh Grant), this was charming and fun. Imbecilic at times, of course, as are all comedy romances these days, but charming and fun nonetheless. If you go into it knowing that the actual machinery of getting them to Wyoming and then wrapping up the murder are going to be the absurd but necessary pretext for the rest of the movie, you won’t mind them so much. It forced me to reconsider my general disdain for predictability in movies if only for the super-obvious fact that if a particular and predictable plot line works in many different movies, it may be one that people desire and even need. And this one surely is. Steenburgen and Elliot are, of course, wonderful as the gun-toting older couple wizened by their years of rugged living and faithful devotion.

Superficial Content: C+
Drugs/Alcohol B+, Sex/Nudity B, Violence C+, Language C+
There are some mild sexual discussions and implied sex (but between married people). The plot involves past infidelity. Language is mild for a PG-13, thankfully, S a couple of times. Violence involves a man falling off a balcony after having been stabbed and a man being shot, plus some gunplay and slapstick violence involving bears and bulls. This is a fairly light PG-13.

Significant Content: B+
Unlike so many com-roms, this one is unabashedly pro-marriage and anti-adultery. Adultery is the source of their problems, and reconciliation is the clear objective of the movie. Forgiveness becomes a major theme, and the basic idea is that “We can work it out,” as sung by Stevie Wonder for emphasis over the credits. There are things to love about New York, but there are also things to love about small-town Western life as well.

Artistic/Thought Value: C
Okay, I know it’s not great art by any stretch of the definition, but there are plenty of things to talk about here. More and more, this is the question that guides me in my Art/Thought grading. Obviously, it’s a fish-out-of-water story, but that is part of what this movie wants people to ask themselves: how much of what I think I need in my life is stuff I really need and how much is just what I’m accustomed to? Is it possible that a very different lifestyle would be equally rewarding and fulfilling?

Discussion Questions:
~Why do you think comedy/romance movies are so predictable? Is this a defect, or is it a virtue? If lots of movies follow a pattern, could that be because it is satisfying to many people to see that pattern followed? Is there any pathology in needing to have everything be surprising and unexpected?
~Do you find yourself biased in favor of large cities or small towns in your thinking? What are the advantages of each? ~Does this movie take sides in that debate? Where should Christians who want to reach the culture prefer to live and do ministry? Where did Paul go in the New Testament? Will the New Jerusalem be a small town or a bustling metropolis?
~How important is it for a couple to share a lot of similarities in small things like activities, humor, and food? How do those things show up in this movie as relationship-strengtheners?
~When Paul is forced to open up to Meryl and admit his flaws, this seems to finally rescue their marriage. Why do people resist becoming vulnerable to their spouses?
~What was so foolish about Meryl’s choice to have a big conversation with Paul at the square dance? How should she have done it?
~Two competing philosophies emerge here: being merely realistic about what you expect from a spouse and expecting everything from them. Which one does the movie endorse? Is either of these the Christian perspective?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The discussion in the FBI office about needing to leave New York. Can you understand why the choice between risking death by staying in New York or staying alive by leaving the city was difficult for Meryl? Can you comprehend how much the identity of New Yorkers is bound up in the fact that they are New Yorkers? Does this seem like idolatry? Do her reasons for not wanting to leave seem silly? Are her reasons for wanting to stay at all like the reasons people are reluctant to choose Christ over the enticements of this world?
~The end scene overlooking Central Park.
Overall Grade: C+
Decent, predictable, clever enough to be worth watching, especially since it’s about marriage being worth doing and yet not being easy.

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