Danville Express

Living - March 2, 2007

Movie review: Music and Lyrics

Rating: Rating: PG-13 for some language and sexual content. 1 hours, 36 minutes. Three stars.

Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore make some beautiful music in this romantic laugher that trolls for big Valentine's box office.

Grant is has-been pop star Alex Fletcher, whose fame and fortune from the kitschy '80s group Pop! have gone the way of shoulder pads and acid-washed denim. Alex makes ends meet by playing county fairs and stag parties, creaking his way through trademark hip thrusts.

A chance meeting with professional plant doctor Sophie Fisher (Barrymore) alters the landscape. Alex is offered a rare opportunity to pen a hit for spiritual teen sensation Cora Corman (Haley Bennett) but his creative juices have all but dried up. When Alex discovers that Sophie has a knack for snappy lyrics he persuades her, against her better judgment, to team up in the name of showbiz.

Naturally the relationship blossoms; even less surprisingly, narrative misunderstandings threaten to destroy it. The tried-and-true formula for silver-screen affection.

"Lyrics" lives and/or dies on the strength of Grant's and Barrymore's chemistry; happily theirs is an amiable pairing. Grant has sturdier comic chops - the role was tailor-made for him - but Barrymore is a harmlessly charming foil. The material is a crazy quilt of spot-on and verbal skids but the pair stay true to their humorous Zen.

Backdrop funnies abound, from inspired VH1 re-runs of Pop!'s music video hits to persistent references to the '80s, a comic force all its own. Alex contemplates a gig on the reality clunker "Battle of the '80s Has-Beens" along with Debbie Gibson, REO Speedwagon and Flock of Seagulls. All ripe for painless punch-lines.

Peripheral players carry some of the load, in particular Bennett whose Buddhism-in-a-thong philosophy strikes droll notes. "Lyrics" screams mainstream, but it's a sweet enough holiday confection.

--Jeanne Aufmuth

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