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Movie Review: Music and Lyrics

Music and Lyrics
Written and directed by Marc Lawrence
Warner Bros.

It’s still pretty amazing to witness the long-ago reinvention of Drew Barrymore, who broke out with E.T. as a child star, going on to be the creepy title kid in Firestarter, or the seductress in Poison Ivy and the TV movie The Amy Fisher Story.  Plus the Playboy spread and the flashing David Letterman, not to mention a well-worn tabloid life of drinking and drugs.  Though having a long career full of work, I don’t think Barrymore truly became a leading lady until 1998’s The Wedding Singer, her first foray into the romantic comedy business.

And still, she’s so natural-looking and sweet, rarely (if ever) taking a risky role, it’s easy to forget about her at times.  Barrymore never has broken out as a serious actor, and perhaps that suits her just fine.  But sometimes, I just root for the girl because she’s around my age and seems like a little angel.  And then, I come full circle and think about all her troubles, what it must have taken to get here as a go-to romcom sweetheart.

In Music and Lyrics, Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant, re-teaming with his Two Weeks Notice director Lawrence) is a former eighties pop star from a once-formidable band known as Pop.  His career has come down to working theme parks and reunions, but he gets a big break when his manager (Brad Garrett) introduces him to the “Britney and Christina combined” Cora (Haley Bennett, in her first role), who loves his old music and wants him to write a song for her.

Fletcher gets a lyricist but is floored by the word power of a woman he has hired to take care of his plants, Sophie Fisher (Barrymore), who doesn’t really want to enter this world.  She has been burned by this sort of thing before, when she went out with a big-time author (Campbell Scott), only to find out he was engaged, and who wrote a thinly-veiled bestseller about Sophie within the next year.

Over time, Sophie and Alex fall in love as they write the song, just in time for the Big Breakup Plot Point so that the final act can be about Getting Back Together Again.  Hugh Grant shows the charm he’s used for years in a genre tailor-made for him, and Drew Barrymore has a hundred expressions in which men like me fall in love with every single time.  But is this a great movie?  By all means, no.

There are too many things going on, something we see a lot in movies today where some ideas should have been cut out long ago and somehow survive in the final picture.  Easily disposed of could have been Sophie’s sister Rhonda (Kristen Johnston) and her pushover husband, but every character nowadays has to have some sort of wacky friend or sibling.  Also, Sophie’s woman-scorned experience drags the movie down quite a bit, and wastes a pretty good actor in Campbell Scott.  And when the movie makes a statement about pop music today with a character like Cora, a pretentious faux-Hindu-inspired pre-fabricated seductress, the jokes write themselves.

But who am I kidding?  Guys are going to be dragged to this in droves on Valentine’s Day and the weekend, and everyone’s going to swallow it out of habit.

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