It's not a complaint when I say that Hugh Grant
seems to play the same role over and over these days. It never gets old to watch him play a complete bastard who is also loveable and endearing in his utter self-absorption. It may eventually get tiresome to see the spiky-haired acerbic bloke woo the girl, but it hasn't yet -- and it is certainly an improvement over his earlier, sappy-and-awkward romantic stylings.
In Music and Lyrics, Grant's playing Alex Fletcher, former frontman of a hilariously '80s band called Pop and current contented has-been. While living exclusively in the land of former glory does allow Alex to wallow in adoration without really having to do anything whatsoever, his bottom-of-the-barrel tour dates are drying up and the money is running out. He gets the chance to revive his career when a vapid pop superstar gives him four days to write her a hit song. Article continues below
Alex is lucky enough to have a novice lyricist as his fill-in plant tender, so he and Sophie (Drew Barrymore
) strike up an impromptu partnership to crank out a twee pop ballad in under a week. It's a convenient set up for the odd couple brand of foreplay so popular in chick flicks, with the flirty banter and clever quipping, but most of the entertainment isn't from the awkwardness of first love so much as it is about Barrymore's floopy, hippie appeal colliding with Grant's sarcastic charm.
There is something about Music and Lyrics that seems rote, even for a prototype in the romantic comedy
field. It hits all the appropriate rises and falls of a burgeoning onscreen romance -- the meet cute, the sudden discovery of deep feelings, the obstacles that threaten to tear the lovers apart -- and it hits them precisely when convention dictates. But it does so even though Barrymore and Grant have a more bickering sibling or flirtatious friends vibe than they do, even though their romance has no real roadblocks to it, even though it feels like these things happen because they are supposed to happen in romantic
But Music and Lyrics is much more comedy than romance. It's funny because of Alex's unflagging wittiness, and the tragically accurate satire of a rich pop star's enthusiasm for both Hunduism and onstage dry humping he calls "dancing." Kristin Johnston
is also a delight as Sophie's sister, a weight-loss guru with a huge residual crush on Alex's patented Pop dance moves. It's accidentally funny because of the bargain basement dubbing in of singing voices for all the actors (which has happened to Barrymore before, in Everyone Says I Love You). But the absolute top tier of comedy is the opening scene of Pop's original 1984 hit, "Pop Goes My Heart," which is spectacularly Wham-tastic.
It's too bad that Music and Lyrics isn't better, because it's been ages since there was a really good romantic comedy, and this one looks adorable on paper. But writer-director Marc Lawrence
, who previously did Two Weeks Notice, may know how to write Hugh Grant to be flawlessly endearing, but he does not seem to have the same knack for pacing an entire romance. It's got all the polish and pizzazz of an entertaining movie, but it really feels too chicky for a good comedy, yet not romantic enough for the Valentine's release it's set up to be.