Few people realize that Judge Patrick Bromley's real last name was Taylor...well, that was before he left Duran Duran for a life less ordinary.
Pop goes my heart.
Good romantic comedy is a tricky thing to pull off. The best examples of the genre (Rob Reiner's When Harry Met Sally… to name but one) depend on three key elements in order to succeed: likable characters, chemistry between the performers, and intelligent writing.
Music and Lyrics, the newest entry into the genre from writer/director Marc Lawrence, gets two of the three right…sort of.
Facts of the Case
Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant, About a Boy) is a has-been. Though he was once in the band PoP! (clearly modeled on Wham!) and ruled the 1980s, things have dried up a bit—he's now playing state fairs and taking meetings for TV shows in which Tiffany will box Debbie Gibson. That is, until the country's biggest pop diva ("Bigger than Britney and Christina combined!"), Cora Corman (Haley Bennett, very funny in her first movie role), commissions him to write her next hit single. With only two weeks to crank out a pop gem, the lyrically-challenged Alex turns to the eccentric Sophie (Drew Barrymore, Fever Pitch)—who only shows up at his apartment to water the plants, but has a knack for turning a phrase—to collaborate with him and make musical magic. Hmm…while they're busy writing a love song, will they find the kind of love to sing about together? Two guesses. First one doesn't count.
Music and Lyrics is a film to be enjoyed, despite its many obvious flaws. It's the kind of movie many viewers may criticize, and they're probably right to do so. There's hardly a criticism one could level against it that I wouldn't agree with. That doesn't mean I don't like Music and Lyrics; only that I recognize just how problematic it is. For a better understanding of what I mean, let's break it down:
Music and Lyrics, on the other hand, gets it right. When written for correctly, Hugh Grant isn't so much an actor as he is a natural resource; charming the ladies with stammering British self-deprecation, while distancing himself enough from the proceedings that it's ok for boys to enjoy themselves, too. And despite my best efforts to the contrary, Drew Barrymore usually finds a way to win me over. This is crucial for a romantic comedy to work. It also helps that the actors find different ways to be funny. Grant's character knows just how funny he is; he's in on the joke. Sophie, a clueless mess, is not.
So there you go. For everything that works about Music and Lyrics, there's just as much that doesn't. In the end, the movie weighs in favor of working—Grant and Barrymore are charming enough, the music is bright and poppy enough, and there are enough smart one-liners to make it all come together. It's not a classic romantic comedy, but if you are a fan of the genre it won't waste your time.
The DVD from Warner Bros. is as mixed a bag as the movie itself. As is now common practice with the studio, two separate versions of the movie have been released: a full frame and a widescreen version, which is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio and preserves the theatrical composition. That version, enhanced for anamorphic playback, is the one viewed by this critic and is the version being discussed here. The image is sharp but looks a little washed out, which is more likely the result of the photography than the transfer. Three separate 5.1 surround tracks have been included for each of the three language options (which is nice; usually only the English language track gets the 5.1 mix, while other language tracks get the standard stereo track), and balance the dialogue-driven center channel with the surrounding channels (mostly music and score) adequately.
A reasonable amount of extras have been included (Something Good), but don't offer much (Something Bad). There's a gag reel that consists mostly of actors blowing lines; a standard making-of featurette that reveals nothing; some deleted scenes that don't work at all (though none are the scenes that run over the movie's end credits, which is an odd choice); and some bonus trailers. The disc's best extra is the video for "Pop Goes My Heart!," which is very funny, but runs in its entirety over the opening of the movie. Including it in the bonus features is a bit redundant.
Did I enjoy Music and Lyrics? Yes. Can I blame someone for not having the patience for it? Probably not.
Not Guilty…but not by much.
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