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Masochistic review: "Did You Hear About the Morgans?"

WHO IS THE MOVIE MASOCHIST?

The Movie Masochist is an emotionally wounded cinephile who lives in the United States. He watches bad movies so you don't have to.

Rated: PG-13 for suggesting vast, cosmic instability

2 stars: Horrible

THE MASOCHISTIC RATING SYSTEM

1 star: Lousy

2 stars: Horrible

3 stars: Painful

4 stars: Traumatic

'Morgans' live in a parallel universe you don't want to visit

Some scientists theorize about the existence of parallel universes, some of which may be governed by different laws of physics.

This collection of universes, each as distinct as an individual bubble, is known as the multiverse. If the boundaries of universes should collide, the result could be the annihilation of the smaller one at the speed of light. At the very least, scientists speculate, there may be some kind of anomaly where the contact occurred - an unexplained void in the midst of our expanding universe.

There is already one void: a comedy called "Did You Hear About the Morgans?"

Actually, it's not an utter void because the deep-space collision that probably created it left behind one disquieting phenomenon - the appearance of Hugh Grant and Wilford Brimley in the same movie.

In our universe, such an occurrence feels improbable, if not impossible. Seeing the lean English actor who embodies a kind of effete, well-tailored heterosexuality standing in the same frame as the drawling, walrus-like American can make reality itself feel unstable.

As if that weren't enough, the rough-hewn Sam Elliot is on hand to provide added grit and mustache.

Meryl (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Paul Morgan (Grant) are a career-driven, technologically reliant couple who are separated because of Paul's recent drunken fling during a business trip. Each has a PDA-wielding personal assistant who schedules business meetings, social events and probably trips to the restroom.

Paul suffers from guilt that forces him to constantly quip in his deadpan English way. He wants to get back together with Meryl, but she's too busy selling outrageously priced Manhattan condos and gracing the cover of New York magazine as an example of some kind of superhuman real estate agent.

One night, after a would-be reconciliation dinner, Meryl and Paul witness a murder on the balcony of the condo she recently sold to a slick European type.

We know he's European because he wears a sport coat and ascot with his polo shirt. That's the kind of foppish ensemble that would draw hard stares from more disheveled American men. Euro-guy also allows his shirt collar to stand straight up, a detail that nearly always indicates a character suffers from over-privileged self esteem.

Euro-guy takes a knife in the back and plunges several stories, ruining the nice silk-blend sport coat he wore so arrogantly in a previous scene. The assassin glances down to see that Paul and Meryl have seen the killing and are conspicuously scurrying away.

Euro-guy, it turns out, was an international arms dealer under investigation by the FBI. Paul and Meryl are material witnesses in an important case, so they're put in the Witness Protection Program, which, according to movie rules, means they will be hidden in the one place where they're least likely to fit in.

Paul and Meryl are spirited away to Wyoming, a place of mountains, prairies, Costco-type stores and lots and lots of guns.

Everyone in their new home seems to be packing heat. Their reluctant hosts are a couple of married marshals (Sam Elliott and Mary Steenburgen) whose union probably consolidated an already impressive gun collection.

Paul and Meryl gradually reconcile after one or two complications and learn to love the town and its well-armed population.

The single most unnerving scene involves Grant, partially dressed as a rodeo clown, speaking with the pistol-packing Brimley. This is likely the remnant of a now-extinct universe in which such meetings could occur.

As we mourn the destruction of one universe, we may also be wary of events that signal further catastrophe, such as the presence of Brimley in an episode of "Project Runway" or a revival of the musical play "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."

We can't control such events, but we can be thankful for our continued existence in such an unpredictable multiverse.

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