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"Music and Lyrics"
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Feb. 16, 2007
Movie review by David MalschTrent Reznor from the band, Nine Inch Nails, once said that music is something that people inherently love and need to relate to but a lot of what's out there right now feels like McDonald's--a quick-fix where you end up with a stomach ache afterwards. I have felt that way many times about music. When I was a kid it was the only thing that I cared about--besides watching movies, of course. I was a member of the Kiss Army my whole childhood until I bought my first Clash album. From there I went AWOL and never looked back. I'm most well-known back home for being a long-time DJ. I had a massive record collection back in the day. I did about 300 shows every year. I lugged those albums everywhere, made a lot of money doing it and got a hernia to prove it. But, somewhere along the road I lost my taste for it all and I traded-in all my vinyl for film and sort of lost touch with it all until my wife bought me an IPod. The groove of all those songs came roaring back and made me want to DJ again. The idea of having 15,000 songs at my fingertips was life-changing. As far as I'm concerned, it's been the greatest invention ever (next to hernia surgery).
Film criticism is much easier and very different than music criticism. To evaluate an actor's performance or the director's orchestration of a film is easy. You're critiquing a story. Music on the other hand is much harder. Music means many different things to many different people and I personally find it impossible to critique. Don't get me wrong, I hate Top 40, most hip-hop, 99% of modern country music and don't get me started on what American Idol is doing to dilute the art, although if I were Simon, I would be meaner—much, much meaner. Music heard by many different ears means many different things to many different people. Film, on the other hand, is much more of a craftwork and much easier to pick apart for money--either a movie works or it doesn't.
The new movie "Music and Lyrics" is a gushy romantic comedy about the world of pop music and is so sugary sweet you may need a dental appointment afterwards to quell the pain. It stars Hugh Grant as a has-been pop star of the 80's named Alex Fletcher who was once in a band called Pop! In his day, Fletcher was more Andrew Ridgeley than George Michael. When the band broke-up the only thing he had left was his name and his pop culture status. Alex decided to milk his one hit wonder notoriety for everything he could and would spend the next 15 years playing amusement parks and state fairs. His 15 minutes of fame were finally winding down until a modern day, New Age pop star named Cora (Haley Bennett) recruits him to write her a #1 hit. It's his last chance at stardom and the perfect opportunity to regain his celebrity. The only problem is that he always could write the music but never had the talent to write lyrics.
Enter stage left: Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore). She's a cute little spark plug that waters Alex's plants every week and has a remarkable ability of putting lyrics to music. She's like Cole Porter in a dress (what are the chances of that?) She also works for her sister Rhonda (Kristen Johnson) who owns a hip version of Jenny Craig and looks eerily familiar to Kirstie Alley. Sophie seems like the perfect woman for Alex both professionally and personally- the only baggage she seems to carry in her life is with her ex-teacher/lover Sloan Cates (Campbell Scott) who wrote a best selling novel fictionally based on her. So, this unknown girl is, ironically, anything but unknown in the literary world and about to become rediscovered as a very famous songwriter. Alex and Sophie eventually write the perfect pop song, fall in love, fall out of love and somehow fall back in love just in time for Alex to become famous again and re-wind his clock for another 15 minutes of fame.
"Music and Lyrics" was written and directed by Marc Lawrence whose own 15 minutes of fame were coming dangerous close with a resume that included the worst of Sandra Bullock's career. He wrote "Miss Congeniality" (both of them) and "Forces of Nature." He also directed her in "Two Weeks Notice" along with Hugh Grant. When the most impressive part of your resume is being a co-writer on "Family Ties", you'd better hope that putting together another Hugh Grant romantic comedy strikes gold. And this one might. It's harmless fun and a sweet treat on Valentine's Day so this film could do very well. While it is a comedy, it's never laugh-out-loud funny, say, as watching an episode of American Idol.
Grant and Barrymore are good together. Don't get me wrong. They're no Hepburn and Tracy but they look good and seem comfortable with each other on screen. The banter back and forth between them is cute, much the feel of Spencer and Kate's respective Pat and Mike characters in Adam's Rib--but we all know it ain't even close in comparison. At times, Grant seems a little old for this role but he does pull it off with his undeniable ability to be, well, Hugh Grant. Even his singing isn't quite as bad as you might imagine.
While there are plenty of things wrong with this film, they all seem to work out in the end. "Music and Lyrics" is nothing more than a decent pop song. As much as you want to fight it you find yourself singing along with the words in the end. Just watch out for that sugar overload stomach ache afterward.
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