Music and Lyrics (2007) / Comedy-Romance

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for some sexual content
Running Time: 96 min.

Cast: Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore, Brad Garrett, Kristen Johnston, Haley Bennett, Jason Antoon, Campbell Scott
Director: Marc Lawrence
Screenplay: Marc Lawrence
Review published February 18, 2007

Music and Lyrics isn't the sort of romantic comedy that will wow anyone who doesn't already have a preference for them, but if you love Hugh (American Dreamz, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason), love Drew (Fever Pitch, 50 First Dates), and the types of movies they typically make, this is about as polished, efficient, and spot on as they come in terms of formula rom-coms.  This is one of those cases where the know-how of the performers makes up for a great deal, as casting the wrong leads or putting the project in the hands of a less interested director would have probably ended up with another misfire.  Although the subject matter covers a big event featuring popular people, it's in the small interplays between Grant and Barrymore, as well as the lighthearted digs at the music industry, where Music and Lyrics rises above its derivative nature to become one of the more pleasant date movies of the year.

Hugh Grant plays Alex Fletcher, a one-time pop star who was part of the synthy 80s band called "PoP!".  When the group broke up, his singing partner's career soared into other avenues while his floundered, leaving him today just a nostalgic memory for those old enough to remember their songs, which he performs at amusement parks, state fairs, and high school reunions. He relies mostly on his older, more popular material to sing, not having written any new material since a critically and commercially unsuccessful solo album.  He is as surprised as anyone that he would be asked to make a new song for teen pop sensation, Cora (Bennett), who happens to be a huge fan of his prior work, and wants him to come up with some brand new material for them to perform a duet. 

He has only a short amount of time to get it all together, but he's rusty, and the lyricist he's hired proves to be of little help.  However, he finds help in an unlikely place when the woman who comes in to tend his plants, Sophie Fisher, starts to put workable lyrics to what they have so far that exceeds anything they've been able to come up with quality-wise.  Fletcher immediately rides this horse while he can, and the two become close, both professionally and commercially, but problems arise between them when it seems that Cora wants to take everything they've done and make it into one of her sexy, gyrating pop numbers she has become famous for.

I haven't always been enamored of Hugh Grant's films, or of Drew Barrymore's for that matter, but they both seem to excel at playing sympathetic characters desperately looking for love and success,  In Music and Lyrics, both of them ingratiate themselves sufficiently that we like them in their roles.  The two do know exactly how to play off of one another in terms of mixing business and flirtation, cultivating their relationship in such a way that it makes sense that they should develop strong feelings for one another in such a short amount of time.  The creative process involved in making heartfelt lyrics allows them both to open up in ways that most people would not be able to, even if they were to spend time as much time just talking to one another. 

As mentioned previously, Music and Lyrics targets the ready-made romantic comedy crowd and very few others, so keep this in mind before making your decision on whether to view it.  Like the pop tunes they write, this film by Marc Lawrence (Two Weeks Notice) is sweet, innocuous, and catchy, making you feel good despite knowing deep down that underneath it is merely a package designed to float to the top of the charts rather than something to last for the ages.  Romantic comedy fans just want something cute, funny, and charming enough to hold their interest; along these lines, Music and Lyrics succeeds by hitting all the right notes at the right times.

Qwipster's rating:

2007 Vince Leo