December 18, 2009 at 1:00 am

Tom Long Film Review: 'Did You Hear About the Morgans?' -- GRADE: D

Review: 'Did You Hear About the Morgans?' is awful

Did you hear about "Did You Hear About the Morgans?"?

It's awful.

Cliché-ridden, stereotype-stuffed and clunky at every inevitably false turn, it's so bad that star Hugh Grant, usually the most relaxed of actors, actually seems to be in pain throughout the film. Maybe he was just getting around to reading the script.

It's easy to see how Grant got involved, though, since writer-director Marc Lawrence had previously guided him through two charmingly lightweight films, "Two Weeks Notice" and "Music & Lyrics."

But this time Lawrence came up with a script that plays like the ghost of so many bad scripts past.

Grant is Paul Morgan, a fabulously wealthy New York lawyer who apparently never works, trying to win back the affection of his estranged wife Meryl (Sarah Jessica Parker), a fabulously wealthy Realtor, when they inadvertently witness a murder.

Suddenly these city slickers find themselves in remote Wyoming as part of a witness protection plan. And there, among good folk with cowboy hats, they rediscover their love and grow to appreciate the beauty of country life.

Yes, it's been done many times before, but never quite this obnoxiously. Paul and Meryl are such shrill characters they never merit affection, and the country folk are painted in unison as conservative Republican, meat-devouring, gun-toting dolts.

Chief among these dolts are the husband-wife team of deputies (Sam Elliot and Mary Steenburgen) charged with caring for the Morgans, who are left by themselves time and time again.

And so much for entertaining the audience. "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" is prefab, cut-and-paste Hollywood dreck. At the end of the film the Morgans are multiplying, and you leave the theater wanting to call Child Protective Services.