RATING |

Every once in a while, a line of dialogue affords an actor the opportunity to precisely describe the psychic agony he's enduring at the moment.

I don't mean pain related to his character, but a professional pain that derives from a career debacle, the sort that Hugh Grant is so transparently experiencing in "Did You Hear About the Morgans," a romantic calamity that strands him on the high plains with Sarah Jessica Parker.

"We are here," says Grant, never more convincing. "And there is nothing we can do about it."

He's speaking to Parker, but he might be addressing his alter ego, formed that fateful day when he was caught with a prostitute, and the old stammering, cute "Sense and Sensibility" Hugh Grant gave way to the irascible cad of "Bridget Jones's Diary" and beyond.

It's Hugh the Bounder we see in "Morgans" - Grant is Paul Morgan, a man who's recently cheated on his wife (Parker). He's desperately trying to reconcile when he and his separated spouse witness a murder and ID the murderer, prompting the feds to send them into hiding.

They end up in Cody, Wyo., where they have what are meant to be comical adventures with Republican locals - bear-wrasslin', wood-choppin', gun-shootin'.

Meryl Morgan, a Realtor, is positioned as an urban sophisticate, and "Morgans" attempts to prove this by showing that she likes to shop and is a member of PETA.

Her vegetarianism confounds and amuses her high-country hosts (Mary Steenburgen, Sam Elliott), and that's as clever as the movie gets - endless Red versus Blue gags, including a joke about former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

You feel Grant's pain, and not just when he bruises his shoulder shooting a Winchester or squirts himself in the face with bear repellent.

The movie even forces him to offer an adulterer's confession and apology, lest we forget he once played a similar scene to an audience of Elizabeth Hurley.

Poor Hugh, still hitting that note.

Well he's there, and there's nothing he can do about it.