By Stephen Taylor / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
Music and Lyrics
2 stars out of five
Dir: Marc Lawrence
Cast: Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore, Haley Bennett
Brad Garrett, Kristen Johnston
Music and Lyrics star Hugh Grant told movie magazine Empire five years ago that he, "never had a burning desire to get ahead in Hollywood."
Some filmgoers would point out that his track record since he got widespread recognition for Four Weddings and a Funeral will ensure that this has never been a problem for him, and this latest vehicle for his bumbling oh-so-English diffidence is unlikely to trouble the Academy Awards nominating committee.
Yet he is undoubtedly a star in Tinseltown these days, and Music and Lyrics is likely to take him one step closer to the Walk of Fame.
Like so many of Grant's movies, the film is a romantic comedy. Alex (Grant), an aging pop star, is asked to write a song for Cora Corman (Haley Bennett), a Britney Spears-like teenage pop idol with so little talent that even her pretentious adoption of the Buddhist faith fails to help her cause.
The only trouble is that Alex hasn't composed a tune for at least a decade and has never written lyrics, having left that to his former songwriting partner Colin (Scott Porter) during his moment in the 1980s spotlight in the group PoP! But Cora wants the song ready in three days.
In a scenario that brings to mind another English duo from the '80s whose name ended with an exclamation mark, Colin moves on to fame and fortune in the '90s after the duo's demise, leaving Alex to make a living playing nostalgia showcases and county fairs.
In one of those coincidences that could only happen in a Hugh Grant movie, he finds the answer to his songwriting dilemma in the unlikely form of Sophie (Drew Barrymore), who is employed to feed and water the plants in his apartment and interrupts his attempts to collaborate with the lyricist provided by his manager. She sprays lines about the room as if they were drizzlings of water flowing from her watering can.
Grant's character in Music and Lyrics has echoes of his portrayal of Will in About a Boy. Both are self-centered islands of mediocrity who gain enlightenment through the intervention of someone who is initially unwelcome.
Both characters also perform on stage, though in Music and Lyrics we get to hear Grant's singing voice in all its karaokelike glory, which, though unlikely to top the charts at any point in the future, is surprisingly adequate.
Barrymore's character comes across as clumsy and nervous as she clicks her ball-point pen on and off whenever she's on edge, a trait that becomes increasingly irritating as the film develops.
The music, whether it's the fluffy tunes of PoP! or the contrived manufactured pop of Corman, fits the film like the Katherine Hamnett T-shirts that Wham! used to wear more than 20 years ago. The video for PoP!'s debut hit in 1984 re-creates the tackiness and innocence of pop videos in their infancy.
However, the plot of Music and Lyrics is so predictable that once it has been established that the main characters are male and female and that there is a race against time to hit a deadline...well, this is a Hugh Grant movie, so need I say any more?
Like the '80s pop group depicted in the movie, Music and Lyrics is lightweight fun. While not quite throwaway bubblegum, it is likely to have about as much staying power as Frankie Goes to Hollywood or Adam and the Ants.
If you're looking for a movie without too many complicated characters, a plot that won't tax your brain too much and a smattering of witty dialogue, Music and Lyrics will hit the right notes and keep Hugh Grant top of the fops for the foreseeable future.
The movie opens today.