MUSIC & LYRICS: SIlly Valentine's Date
MUSIC AND LYRICS (romantic comedy)
Cast: Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore, Brad Garrett, Kristen Johnston
Director: Marc D. Lawrence
Time: 103 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)
TRIVIA QUESTION: Now, if you were a has-been pop musician living in a one-room apartment, would you hire someone to water your indoor plants which can be counted with all the fingers on one hand? This, ladies and gentlemen, is just one of the many off-key conceits in a rather contrived rom-com slotted for this Valentine's Day.
We shall not go into any more of the 'screechy' notes of “Music And Lyrics” but concentrate on the 'groovy' moments instead. For one, it is interesting to see former heart-throb Hugh Grant doing self-parody as a has-been in the entertainment industry. In this role, he doesn't really have to act.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT? “Music And Lyrics” starts off introducing Alex Fletcher (Grant) as a Wham!-like keyboardist strutting his stuff (and butt) in the Eighties when his band Pop was in its heyday. After the turn of the century, Alex is now a theme park singer who is offered a chance to duet with America's top teen pop sensation, Cora Corman (Haley Bennett). All he has to do is to compose a duet number for her concert and he would be on his way to making a comeback.
Trouble is, Alex has not written a lyric in years and is suffering from a huge dose of writer's block. And this is where the 'plant lady' comes in. When Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore) unconsciously completes his sentences while watering his plants, he figures that she should be his lyricist. He persuades her to take up the job – but first, she has to get over her trauma of a scandalous relationship with her college professor (Campbell Scott) who has written a best-seller on their affair.
BOUQUETS & BRICKBATS: It is an understatement to say that “Music And Lyrics” is poorly contrived and predictable. Writer-director Marc Lawrence (of “Two Weeks Notice”) makes no apologies for it and even uses our familiarity with romantic comedies and the Eighties pop culture to fuel the narrative. He has Grant looking worn-out and haggard to drive home that has-been factor; he makes Cora a combination of Britney Spears and Shakira to juxtapose contemporary sex-pop with 'ancient' psychedelic Pop music; and he has subplots about idol-worshipping with Sophie's older sister (Kirsten Johnston) falling all over Alex at one of his concerts.
Grant and Barrymore manage to pull it off as romantic lovers but don't expect many sparks or chemistry here. All you would get are the usual gestures by Grant when he tries to look charming. Why, he didn't even bother to hide his paunch during a morning-after sequence. Barrymore, on the other hand, still looks ravishing and, more importantly, makes her role more credible than what is apparently on the script.
Brad Garrett (of TV's “Everybody Loves Raymond”) is great to watch as Alex's friend and manager and he has a few nifty lines. For eye candy, we have some catchy dances by Bennett who actually looks like a cross between Christina Aguilera and Shakira, both of whom she spoofs.
THE LOWDOWN: With cardboard Cupids and hearts adorning the shopping malls everywhere, this is the season to be silly and who can blame film-makers like Lawrence for pandering to this mood?