A review of “Music and Lyrics” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for some language and sexual content

Run Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

 

 

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

Grant is pop-star has-been Alex Fletcher whose fame and fortune from 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 and pocketing the change.

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 stays 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.