Music and Lyrics (PG)

ANDREW CLARKE The film starts off entertainingly with Hugh Grant trying to convince us that he was once an Eighties boy band heart-throb turned has-been. After a meeting with America’s latest Britney Spears clone he accepts a challenge to write a new song for her new album.


The creators of this formulaic romantic comedy were obviously feeling generous because they have provided audiences with two movies for the price of one.

The first is a Hugh Grant movie in which he plays the stumbling, bumbling hero we have come to know and love and the other is an identikit American wish-fulfilment film and the two sections appear to be written by totally different writers.

In fact the Hugh Grant section is so Hugh Grant that the first thing I did when I got back to the office was to make sure that Grant's dialogue wasn't written by long-term pal Richard Curtis.

His speech patterns appear to come straight out of Four Weddings and Notting Hill. His sentences are full of self-deprecating humour, sub clauses, clarifications and contradictions - which he delivers faultlessly and do provide most of the laughs in the film, but it is totally at odds with everything else that is going on.

The film starts off entertainingly with Hugh Grant trying to convince us that he was once an Eighties boy band heart-throb - a cross between Simon Le Bon and George Michael. Now he is a has-been pop star appearing as a subject on Where Are They Now? shows on US television and reduced to playing gigs at county fairs and school reunions.

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And yet he still lives in an expensive New York apartment with its own doorman and has an exclusive manager (Brad Garrett).

After a meeting with Cora - America's latest Britney Spears clone - who was a young fan when she was growing up, he accepts a challenge to write a new song for her new album. The only problem is that after the flop of his solo album, he hasn't written anything for 10 years.

Working with an acclaimed New York lyricist ends in disaster, but the situation is rescued when he discovers that Lucy Fisher (Drew Barrymore), the young girl who comes in to water his plants, has a natural talent for lyric writing. A professional partnership becomes a love affair until Grant's character Alex Fletcher manages to mess things up.

As usual with a romantic comedy, the second half of the film is spent trying to woo back the girl you never knew you fancied at the beginning.

The biggest problem with Music and Lyrics is that it is utterly predictable. It's a formulaic, join-the-dots kind of film. It's pleasant, it's mildly amusing in places, but it doesn't offer any surprises or anything original. In fact it's hard to believe that Fletcher was an Eighties pop star.

He seems to exist in a different movie from everyone else. It's as if a clever piece of computer technology and cut him out of a British Working Title movie and then pasted him into a typical Hollywood rom-com. At one point I was almost tempted to look for any tell-tale black cut-out marks around Hugh's character.

Drew Barrymore is fine in her role, but she is hardly stretched at all - in fact her part could have been played by anyone from Sandra Bullock to Cameron Diaz.

In the final analysis, Music and Lyrics is all about nothing. It's a film that appears to be written by committee to fit a template provided by an audience research department.

It's a series of moments never seems to hang together as a complete entity. And finally the ending is so sickeningly sweet it should come with a government health warning.



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