Music and Lyrics
I don’t care what you say. The 80′s were cool.

Theatrical Release Date: 02/14/2007
Director: Marc Lawrence
Cast: Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore, Brad Garrett, Kristen Johnston, Haley Bennett

“How to make a romantic comedy: The ‘Music and Lyrics’ Story” by Ian Forbes.

First, cast beloved actors who have a charisma and likeability that will win audiences over no matter how sappy their dialogue may be. Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore; Check.

Second, the main characters should be flawed and searching for something to complete their life. Barrymore plays a failed writer who was betrayed by a former beau and feels insecure about showing herself to the world creatively. Grant is a former 80’s pop star who now plays carnivals and high school reunions (and even that is beginning to dry up). Check.

Third, there should be some best friend/sibling types for each main character that provide a zany foil to their puppy dog sad faces. Garrett is Grant’s agent and probably couldn’t get another client with a hundred dollar bill sticking out of his pocket. Johnston is Barrymore’s sister who runs a weight loss clinic and was a huge fan of Grant’s band in the 80’s. Check.

Fourth, the main characters will fall in love, face an obstacle to their relationship and break up, only to be reminded of their love and get back together in the end. Grant and Barrymore begin writing a song for a hot young pop star (Bennett) and fall in love. He calls her out on some insecurities and they part ways. He realizes he loves her and wins her back. Check.

There’s no way I spoiled anything. You can see all of this coming a mile away. Romantic comedies are such a formulaic art form at this point that only the strength of the actors, and/or occasionally a witty script, can elevate it to something worthwhile.

As most of my loyal readers know by now, I’m a sappy idiot. Sure, I tend to love dark, depressing independent fare but I can be swept off my feet by a heartfelt romantic comedy like a little schoolgirl just as easily.

While I haven’t always been a big fan of Grant’s (arrests notwithstanding), he has completely changed my mind in the last five years with great performances in “About A Boy”, “Love Actually” and here in “Music and Lyrics”.

The movie opens with a music video of his band, “Pop” and it is pure 80s gloriousness. All of the cheesy dance moves, the interwoven overly-melodramatic story and the hilarious hair is present and accounted for.

Basically, “Pop” is Wham set to celluloid and Grant plays the other guy (yes, I do know it’s Andrew Ridgeley). As a fan of 80’s music, using it as a back story for Grant’s character made it all the more fun and easy to laugh along with.

Barrymore’s character is less easy to reconcile – as the neurotic, insecure victim personality. However, I have always found her to be so endearing and loveable that I was eventually swayed by her feminine wiles. She’s no Anne Hathaway but she makes it work.

I’d also like to applaud both actors for doing all of their own vocals for the songs. I wasn’t sure as the movie went along if some vocals had been dubbed Milli Vanilli style but in checking out the song credits, it’s all Grant and Barrymore.

The writers of the songs should also be commended for coming up with catchy pop tunes that were fun, irreverent and touching. If the songs hadn’t worked, this whole movie would’ve gone down like Chloë Sevigny in “The Brown Bunny”.

I’m sure many people reading this (if they are still reading) aren’t going to see this film. I doubt my demographic skews heavily towards the sappy side of cinema but so far this year, “Music and Lyrics” is the best of its genre to come out.

I’m giving it a 3 out of 5 on the merits of the film, I thought Barrymore’s character could have been done better with a script rewrite and it has an odd sense of pacing because of the way the elements and obstacles to their relationship are laid out.

Still, I’m gonna snap this up on DVD once it hits shelves and probably watch it every few weeks or so in rotation with “Love Actually”, “Serendipity” and “Say Anything”. If you want a film that’s got some good 80’s cheese and need a film to see with your wife/girlfriend, there’s a lot worse you can do (“Because I Said So” springs to mind).