| It is hard to expect much from this romantic comedy considering writer-director Mark Lawrence’s previous movies include “Music and Lyrics” and “Two Weeks Notice.”
Lawrence is reunited for the third time with Hugh Grant (“Love Actually,” “Notting Hill” and “About a Boy”), the handsome British actor with a reputation for being the go-to-guy for romcoms. Grant’s merry go round of leading ladies has included Drew Barrymore (“Music and Lyrics”), Sandra Bullock (“Two Weeks Notice”), Julia Roberts (“Notting Hill”) and Renee Zellwegger (“Bridget Jones’ Diary”). In this fish-out-of-water comedy, Grant is paired with Sarah Jessica Parker (“Sex and the City”), who keeps her name circulating in the public consciousness and gives her legion of female fans something to tide them over until reprising her role of Carrie Bradshaw on May 28.
The flimsy premise behind this unwieldy title concerns the temporary relocation of an estranged Manhattan couple as part of the witness-protection program to a small town in Wyoming after they witness a murder.
Meryl Morgan (Parker) runs her own real estate firm and is featured on the cover of a magazine. Her husband, Paul (Grant), is a successful attorney. They have been separated for three months due to his infidelity when he slept with another woman on a business trip to Los Angeles.
Paul has tried everything to get Meryl to forgive him. He sends her gifts and leaves apologetic voice mail messages. They coordinate their busy schedules and have a dinner date where they discuss seeing a marriage counselor. After a cordial meal, Paul walks Meryl to her appointment with a client. Her prospective buyer is murdered on a balcony right above street level and they both get a good look at the killer.
They come under the protection of the U.S. Marshal Service and are whisked away by private jet to Ray, Wyo. The biggest threat posed by the wide open spaces in the middle of nowhere is grizzly bears. Posters are everywhere explaining what to do if you encounter one of these ornery critters.
Like most of the movie, the actual scene when Paul is confronted by the furry brown beast falls flat.
The Morgans are guests at the home of Sheriff Clay Wheeler (Sam Elliott from “Ghost Rider” and “Thank You for Smoking”) and his wife, Emma (Mary Steenburgen from “The Proposal”). They are forced to spend four days together. They occupy their time by jogging in the fresh air, horseback riding, learning to shoot with rifles, playing bingo and dancing at a pre-rodeo hootenanny.
Besides infidelity, the subjects of infertility and adoption are raised. The screenplay is dull, bringing nothing new or original to the screen. Much like “New in Town” released earlier this year, the movie elicits a few chuckles, but fails to deliver any big laughs. The movie gives no inkling of why they got married in the first place. They seem mismatched from the outset and the chemistry never kicks in.
The cliché-ridden dialogue is delivered with no feeling or conviction and a predictable ending leaves you wanting more. Corny country western music attempts to evoke a romantic mood.
The supporting players are given little to do, but outshine the marquee names. They include: Wilford Brimley as the owner of a diner; Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men”) as Meryl’s personal assistant; Kim Shaw as a nurse, waitress and assistant fire chief; Jesse Liebman as Paul’s personal secretary; David Call as the town doctor; and Gracie Lawrence as the cute singing granddaughter.
The best advice is to hold your horses and wait for the Christmas Day release of the excellent Golden Globe-nominated “It’s Complicated” starring America’s greatest actress, Meryl Streep, who proves that 60 is sexy.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"