Music and Lyrics
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Marc Lawrence
with Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore, Brad Garrett, Kristen Johnston, Haley Bennett, Campbell Scott, Jason Antoon, Adam Grupper, Matthew Morrison, Billy Griffith, Aasif Mandvi, Scott Porter
release UK 9.Feb.07, US 14.Feb.07
07/US Warner 1h44
Music and Lyrics
They write the songs: Barrymore and Grant

garrett johnston scott

Music and Lyrics Silly and enjoyable, but superficial and formulaic: this could describe virtually every rom-com made in Hollywood over the past decade. Fortunately, this one has a superbly engaging cast.

Alex Fletcher (Grant) is a has-been 1980s pop star making a living on the retro circuit when he's given a second chance at songwriting fame by America's teen sensation Cora (Bennett). Alex is a whiz with music, but needs a lyricist, and discovers one in Sophie (Barrymore), the woman who waters his plants. Together they only have a few days to write a hit song for Cora, pressured by Alex's manager (Garrett), haunted by Sophie's cruel ex (Scott) and hounded by Sophie's sister (Johnston), who's been in love with Alex for 20 years.

The set-up is great fun, launching with a hysterical vintage music video featuring Grant and his bandmates in full '80s mode--ludicrous hair, tight costumes and wacky dance moves. Whenever the film taps into this nostalgia, it discovers something much more intriguing than the simplistic romantic plot. Hordes of screaming 40-year-old women (with their bored husbands lurking around the edges), too-sexy and too-young pop stars trying to tap into the glamour that disappeared before they were born, even the age difference between Alex and Sophie--these are themes the film could have explored just a little.

But no, it's basically an excuse for Grant to crack witty one-liners with his trademark impeccable timing and prance around like a rock star, while Barrymore gets the much more thankless role as the ditsy but emotionally connected romantic interest. Both of them are so charming and likeable that the film is impossible to hate. And Garrett provides some terrific support as well, while Johnston steals every scene with her hilarious energy.

It's a shame that after the snappy opening the film drifts into pure corn. The plot is by-the-books--unoriginal, predictable and therefore rather dull. And the crackling banter even gets a little annoying, especially when the film starts wallowing in gooey sweetness. At least Grant's gleeful pastiche of 1980s has-been icons is infectiously entertaining. And the pop-up video epilogue wraps it up in a very silly bow.

cert pg themes, some language 1.Feb.07

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2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall