Review by Mark Walters


So I'm not really big on romantic comedies... never have been really.  That's not to say I haven't seen some that I liked.  I think the key is to break formula as much as possible.  Now I like Hugh Grant, and I guess you could say I like Drew Barrymore as well, though to be fair I've had a crush on her since she was 16.  We're the same age after all.  So when I saw the previews for MUSIC AND LYRICS, I figured if I wasn't crazy about the type of film it was, at least there would be elements in it I could live with.  I'm happy to say it exceeded my expectations.

  The film opens with a fictional music video from the 1980's, featuring then popular top 40 band Pop, lead by Colin Thompson (Scott Porter) and Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant).  Through an entertainment show's inside look at the band, it's explained that Colin went on to be a big time star, whereas Alex sort of faded into obscurity.  Now in the present day, Alex along with the help of his enthusiastic agent Chris Riley (Brad Garrett) makes a buck here and there playing gigs at reunions and county fairs.  Suddenly a golden opportunity is dropped in his lap when a superstar singer named Cora Corman (Haley Bennett) asks him to write a duet for her new album.  But Alex isn't a talented enough lyricist to do it alone.  Enter his new plant lady Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore), who has an uncanny gift for creating unusually perfect lyrics.  Alex convinces her to help him write the song, but learns that things in her past are making it difficult for her to come through.  When their work together turns toward romance, things get even more complicated.

  While there are certainly some familiar moments throughout this flick, for the most part it's just different enough to be very entertaining.  Aside from the witty dialogue, of which there is plenty, the film is daring enough to break formula when you least expect it.  The two leads don't immediately fall in love, which is nice too, since their primary focus is meant to be the creation of a perfect song.  The story focuses on their ups and downs trying to work together, and the romance (for once) takes a backseat to the principal reason these two get together.  Plus Sophie's somewhat sordid past is never glossed over.  She's forced not only to come clean with Alex about it, but is even made to confront it head on, and even that doesn't play out the way you might expect.  The chemistry between Grant and Barrymore is pretty convincing, despite him looking just a tad bit old for her.  Both of their performances are solid, and they thankfully don't try to oversell their characters.  But where this film excels beautifully is with it's supporting cast.  Brad Garrett is always fun to watch, and delivers some nice comedic moments during his attempts to help his only client.  3rd ROCK FROM THE SUN's Kristen Johnson also shows up as Sophie's enthusiastic sister Rhonda, and gets a laugh with just about every line she's given.  I was happy to see her on the big screen, and I have a feeling this performance will lead to more motion picture work for her.  Campbell Scott shows up briefly as an antagonist for Sophie, and he pretty darn good playing a sleazy guy, which is against type for him.  Haley Bennett pretty much nails the Britney/Christina-esque superstar she's supposed to be, and does a good job of exhibiting how ridiculously the music industry tries to unnecessarily sex up everything they do.  A couple of small but important performances to look for are Greg Antonsky as a humorously pompous lyricist, and FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS star Scott Porter as Pop's lead singer in the opening music video.  And that video is so well done and so funny, you'll be glad to know it's shown in full both at the beginning, and at the end accompanied by Pop Up Video style updates for each character.  This isn't just a funny movie, it's a fun movie.  I really had a good time watching it, and it did a nice job of surprising me on more than one occasion.  It's not perfect, as few romantic comedies ever are, but it's definitely better than average.  I would've enjoyed a slightly faster pacing on some scenes, and I never felt like Drew's character had enough of a catharsis considering her storyline.  But all in all this is a good time at the movies, and even a single guy like me can appreciate the end result. score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being best, I give MUSIC AND LYRICS an 8.

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