Words to love by

Hugh and Drew come together to make beautiful music in the film ‘Music and Lyrics’

Matt Graham

.”Music and Lyrics,” – Hugh Grant’s latest stab at playing Hugh Grant in a romantic comedy – opens with a music video that looks like it’s out of the vaults of Duran Duran or A Flock of Seagulls, with Hugh (or Alex Fletcher, as he’s called here) and his band mates running around in black and white checkered clothes and scenery, shaking there hips and chasing around a buxom nurse.

“Music and Lyrics”
DIRECTED BY: Marc Lawrence
STARRING: Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore
SHOWING AT: Area theaters

The scene, a picture-perfect parody of the early days of MTV, is quite funny. Unfortunately, it is the only portion of “Music and Lyrics” that achieves such a level.

Fast-forward 22 years, and Alex is a has-been rock star after his band, POP, broke up in the early ’90s. The group’s other singer took the last few songs they wrote together and bolted to Justin Timberlake status, while Alex turned into a slightly older Joey Fatone, stuck playing to middle-aged women at state fairs and amusement parks 15 years after his disaster of a solo album.

You see, Alex has never been able to write lyrics. That becomes a problem when Cora (Haley Bennett) – a sort of American Buddhist Shakira and the latest pop sensation – asks Alex to write a song for her around the title “A Way Back into Love,” which is the name of a book that helped Cora recover after breaking up with her boyfriend of two months. Worse, he’s only got three days to put it together.

Enter Drew Barrymore – or rather her “character” Sophie Fisher. Alex’s usual plant waterer (yes, plant waterer) is sick, so the hypochondriac Sophie has to fill in. She just happens to enter when Alex is arguing with his agent (Brad Garrett), a wannabe-suicidal-poet hired over the value of his depressive lyrics. When Sophie overhears their conversation and turns a couple clever rhymes around Alex’s melody, presto, a new songwriting team is formed.

As the plot unfolds, we find that Alex descended into a madness of drugs and depression after his music career left him in a lurch. Sophie, on the other hand, was an aspiring writer who was charmed by a former professor into entering a relationship with him, though he never bothered to tell her he was engaged. When the professor then wrote a bestselling book with a less-than-flattering fictional version of Sophie, her life fell apart.

Of course, by the time the film starts, both characters are pretty well recovered from their life traumas, and so we get to avoid any messy conflict.

What we do get, after Sophie and Alex unavoidably fall in love, is a brief lovers’ spat. When Cora wants to change the gentle love song Alex and Sophie wrote into sitar-filled R&B jam, Alex is more than ready to concede creative control, while Sophie wants to hold on to her artistic integrity. This leads to Sophie telling Alex that his solo album was bad because he tried too hard to make a hit, which forces Alex to blurt that yes, he could see the resemblance between Sophie and the character in the book.

But don’t worry, after about, oh, 15 minutes of dramatic tension, they make up and everybody walks away happy (well, almost everybody Ö after all, the bad guys have to get their due).

In all fairness, “Music and Lyrics” isn’t completely horrible. As a send-up of VH1 Celebreality, it’s spot on. And Grant and Barrymore, along with writer/director Marc Lawrence (“Miss Congeniality”), despite their utter lack of versatility, are solid at what they do – the trio is good for a few chuckles, and a few dopily romantic moments, if not any outright laughs or tears. There’s even a nice observation about the nature of a good pop song: the music is like the physical attraction to a person, while the lyrics are like getting to know them, hence the film’s title. Also, the subtle, sweeping, panning camera of Xavier Perez Grobet deserves some credit.

No, the film isn’t completely horrible, but at least if it was, it would’ve had that going for it. But the all-too-slick, all-too-predictable “Music and Lyrics” is something worse than horrible, it’s mediocre.