For better or worse, Hugh Grant and romance are the peanut butter and jelly of the chick-flick world. Tried, true and downright satisfying, he and his puppy-dog eyes triumph once more opposite a docile Drew Barrymore in “Music and Lyrics.”
This time around, Grant (“Love Actually”) plays the quippy Alex Fletcher, a has-been star of the appropriately-named ’80s group Pop! who makes a living off his antiquated musical glory by performing at assorted fruit fairs and high school reunions. His mediocre singing career gets a shot at resurrection through mega-pop star Cora Corman (newcomer Haley Bennett), a beautiful New Age blonde who could easily pass for a runaway Pussycat Doll. Cora bids Alex to write her a hit channeling her devastating breakup from a two-month long relationship, to be titled “A Way Back into Love,” and he quickly finds himself in desperate need of a lyricist.
Enter Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore, “50 First Dates”), the temp who waters Alex’s plants. With a nervous innocence, a pinch of poetry and a dash of hypochondria, Sophie’s hidden ability to write catchy lyrics becomes a lifeline for Alex and a convenient preamble for close proximity leading to inevitable attraction, heartbreak and reunion. Because – cue the Percy Sledge – when a man loves a woman, well, you know.
While their chemistry isn’t off the charts, Barrymore and Grant’s cumulative stock in the romance industry is enough to create a wholesome camaraderie that buoys the film’s sunny plotline. Theirs is the type of relationship that always sails smoothly, as evidenced by the two-minute argument that precipitates the movie’s climax. When Sophie’s self-esteem is temporarily crushed by Alex’s harsh words, he must learn how to croon his heart’s song directly into her wounded soul before she deserts him forever. Cynics beware: This may not be your cup of tea.
Highlights of this songwriting tale include Sophie’s older sister Rhonda (Kristen Johnston, TV’s “3rd Rock from the Sun”), a fearsome mother and a former diehard fan of Pop!. Her enthusiasm for Alex bests even the pre-teen throngs that worship Cora – who, in accordance with her “shanti shanti” salutations to the crowd, seems strangely untouched by the corrosiveness of, say, paparazzi crotch shots. However, this doesn’t stop her from wearing the customarily scanty outfits and lamenting over the threat of being outdanced by Shakira.
With winning supporting characters like Cora and Rhonda, “Music and Lyrics” forms a solid love-conquers-all storyline that bridges the generation gap between the teen and adult audience for which the film is surely aiming. The result is a polished and perfectly timed follow-up to the hearts and flowers of Cupid’s month. Whether you’re snuggling up next to your sweetheart or nursing a smuggled pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the theater, “Music and Lyrics” is a reminder of an idyllic love only Hollywood can get away with.
Music and Lyrics
At Quality 16 and Showcase
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars