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Overall Rating

Awesome: 6.98%
Worth A Look: 37.21%
Just Average41.86%
Pretty Crappy: 13.95%
Sucks: 0%

5 reviews, 13 user ratings

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Music and Lyrics
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Finally--A Romantic Comedy That Is Both Romantic And Funny"
4 stars

Anyone out there who is interested in witnessing how the right people in the right roles can save an otherwise doomed movie is advised to seek out “Music and Lyrics” as a crash course in the art of casting. This is a film with a plot that never wavers for an instant in its efforts to get from point A to point B, characters that we have seen dozens of times before in dozens of earlier films and comedic banter so unsubtle in its jokiness that you can practically hear off-screen rim-shots after every line. And yet, I didn’t really mind its profound unoriginality because of the presence of Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore in the lead roles. Thanks to their considerable efforts, what could have been another load of romantic comedy piffle instead turns out to be the most entertaining example of the genre to come along in a while.

Grant stars as Alex Fletcher, who achieved a small amount of fame in the 1980's as a member of British haircut band Pop–we get a look at the video for their hit song, “Pop Goes My Heart,” at the beginning of the film–until the lead singer ditched the group for a solo career. Since then, Alex has cheerfully been eking out a small-but-lucrative career on the oldies circuit where he offers up endless performances of “Pop Goes My Heart” (as well as the tie-in dance) to any amusement park or high-school reunion that will pay him. Unfortunately, the pool of people willing to do that is beginning to dry up–as Alex’s manager (Brad Garrett) puts it, “There are new old acts coming every time”–and the only solid offer on the table is to appear on a celebrity boxing show entitled “Battle of the 80's Has-Beens.” Salvation comes when Cora Corman (Haley Bennett), the biggest pop tart in the music business–imagine Britney, Christina and Shakira all rolled into one–summons Alex to a meeting. A giant Pop fan, Cora wants Alex to write a song for the two of them to perform on her upcoming CD. This would be great except that a.) the song needs to be done in a week or the gig will go to someone else and b.) unbeknownst to Cora, Alex hasn’t put pen to paper to come up with a new song since the ill-fated solo album he did in the wake of Pop’s demise.<

Enter Sophie Fisher (Barrymore), a winsome lass who arrives at Alex’s apartment as his substitute plant waterer while he is struggling with a painfully hip lyricist to come up with a tune. While quirking up the joint, Sophie demonstrates a flair for lyrics (including something about a “Love Autopsy”) that intrigues Alex enough to offer her the job of co-writing the song. (“You’re Cole Porter in panties! Of course, so was Cole Porter.”) After some convincing–Sophie has been gun-shy over writing anything since a sleazy college professor (Campbell Scott) seduced her and used her life story for the basis of a best-selling book–the two join forces and make beautiful music together in every sense of the word. Conflict comes when Cora loves the song but decides to give it a spin that transforms it into an omni-sexual and multi-cultural mess that horrifies Sophie. (“An orgasm set to the ‘Gandhi’ soundtrack.”) Alex, unsurprisingly, doesn’t seem quite as concerned about this development and it leads to the two of them splitting both personally and professionally. It all concludes at Cora’s Madison Square Garden concert–a garish affair that makes David Bowie’s “Glass Spider” tour look like an intimate acoustic performance by comparison–with Alex on stage and Sophie in the audience and results that will probably not come as a shock to most viewers.<

I’ll be honest–most of “Music and Lyrics” is fairly indefensible when put up against even the laxest critical standards. There isn’t a single cliche of the genre that doesn’t make an appearance here, the dialogue is straight out of the Neil Simon playbook (and now that I think of it, the basic premise does bear a certain resemblance to Simon’s 1970's stage musical “They’re Playing Our Song”) and outside of the genuinely inspired faux-video opening, the film is as blandly conceived and executed as you might expect from writer-director Marc Lawrence, the man who came up with the likes of “Forces of Nature,” “Two Weeks Notice” and the “Miss Congeniality” series entire. The satirical aspect of the material is largely toothless and one-note for a film that wants to be seen as savvy about the industry–for every inspired joke (including one great quip about Bob Dylan), there are six on the level of remarking about how well Debbie Gibson can take a punch. The biggest comedic thuds comes from the Cora character, which is odd because you would think that pop-princess excesses could inspire an endless amount of material. Unfortunately, Lawrence can’t decide whether she is a target of satire or a normal person and see-saws between the two approaches instead of focusing on one. (In this case, matters aren’t helped by the fact that the actress playing Cora gives such a robotic performance that it is impossible to determine whether she is giving us an inspired spoof of the vapid starlets of today or just a spectacularly awful actress.)<

I duly note all of these flaws into the record but as I said earlier, I am willing to overlook them because of the sheer delight that I felt in watching Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore going through their paces. Both of them are playing character types that they have done many times before in the past–Grant is the charmingly sarcastic rogue who can nevertheless be counted on when the chips are down and Barrymore is the adorably flaky scatterbrain whose innate goodness and innocence winds up melting the hardest of hearts, on screen and off–and while neither one is exactly reinventing the acting wheel here, they aren’t merely going through the motions either. Sure, they are among the most likable actors around but they also have the kind of performance chops that can make a dud line sound funny and a pretty good line sound like a classic. More importantly, they also have the kind of genuine on-screen chemistry that you don’t see a lot of these days–they play so well off of each other that you may find yourself hoping that someone out there picks up on it and puts them together again as soon as possible.

Like the pop-music aesthetic that it celebrates at length, “Music and Lyrics” is the kind of disposable entertainment that has nothing more on its mind than entertaining audiences for as long as it takes to experience it. This may not sound like the most noble of mission statements until you realize just how many similar films, such as “The Holiday” and “Because I Said So,” are failing at even those modest goals these days. “Music and Lyrics” achieves those goals and while the end results may not exactly rattle around in the mind a la“Inland Empire,” it will most likely have viewers leaving the theater with smiles on their faces and songs in their hearts. After several weeks of depressing cinematic dregs, who among you could possibly object to that?

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15590&reviewer=389
originally posted: 02/14/07 00:17:47
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User Comments

7/18/10 the dork knight Surprisingly watchable. One of Grant's better rom-coms. 4 stars
1/09/09 Anonymous. an enjoyable and funny way to burn a couple hours. 4 stars
1/06/09 FrankNFurter Wow...didn't want to see this,but was pleasantly surprised by the sharp screenplay. 3 stars
8/30/08 AnnieG Enjoyable lightweight romantic comedy; even the husband liked it. 3 stars
1/13/08 David Pollastrini Drew looked hot in this! 3 stars
6/15/07 William Goss Prime harmless fluff, with charm to spare and some awfully catchy tunes. 3 stars
6/10/07 Danielle Ophelia Fluff, but it's the inoffensive kind of fluff--enjoyed the 80's references, and Grant. 4 stars
5/16/07 Zizi Very romantic 5 stars
5/13/07 fools&#9835;gold Think of what this film tries to say (about itself), and not about these critics. 5 stars
4/17/07 David Pollastrini Drew Barrymore is hot in this! 3 stars
3/11/07 Roy F. Moore Drew and Hugh make this movie sing (apologies for the bad pun)! Funny, sweet, cute. 5 stars
3/04/07 Joe Smaltz Cute movie, certainly uplifting, Grant and Barrymore click together 4 stars
2/20/07 MP Bartley Coasts by on the charm of its leads 3 stars
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  14-Feb-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 08-May-2007

  09-Feb-2007 (PG)
  DVD: 04-Jun-2007

  14-Feb-2007 (PG)

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