Starring Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker and Natalia Klimas. Directed by Marc Lawrence. 103 mins
In a way, you could say, 'seen any of Hugh Grant's American romantic comedies, you've seen them all'. Not quite accurate – some are more entertaining than others – but this one is more or less the usual. When his voice comes over the opening credits, he really does sound more British than British (and is later referred to as 'the tea drinker'). When he comes on screen (and it is two years since his last film, Music & Lyrics), it is a shock to be reminded of how mannered he is, the charming bumbler who has gaffed his way through many a film. His character is not quite so charming here – an infidelity in his marriage – and, as a New York City lawyer, he can't be all that bumbling...
Except, if the plot landed him in the middle of rural Wyoming where he is most definitely not at home. Oh, how did he get there from NYC? The Witness Protection program.
After a usual kind of opening as he meets his ex-wife, Sara Jessica Parker, a hot shot real estate agent, for dinner, they witness a murder and off they are hurried to the small town of Ray (one cafe, one store, a rodeo...).
The plot is a kind of Crocodile Dundee in reverse. The city slickers who can't get to sleep because Wyoming lacks the accustomed noises of New York have to adjust (they do a bit), have to face their marriage (they do), escape the killer who has tracked them down (yes, she did make a phone call to her office which the killer had bugged), kiss and make up, find a child to adopt and become pregnant. If you like the stars, no problem.
But Sam Elliot (who has done this kind of laconic cowboy role so many times in westerns and non-westerns but does it effectively) and Mary Steenburgen (who is appearing these years in welcome character roles) are the husband and wife deputies who are responsible for the protection of the witnesses.
That's it, neither more nor less.
Sony Out December 26 2009
Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.