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Movie Review: Music and Lyrics

"Music and Lyrics" is an unsurprising, perfectly agreeable romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. 

The film contains a fair amount of very smart ideas for a rom-com, not the least of which is its main plot conceit:  an amateur lyricist and an aging, has been pop star join forces to create a hit love song for the reigning pop princess of the day (think of an even more vapid Britney Spears).  The germ of a great flowering romance is all there (how they connect through creative exchange, how their budding romance deepens the song they collaborate on), but the execution fails to deliver on these promises. 
You feel these wasted opportunities as the movie flashes before you.  You can imagine what a Cameron Crowe (or even a Nancy Meyers) might have been able to mold from this material.  As it is, writer/director Marc Lawrence stages his film flatly and his pacing isn't nearly as musical as it needs to be.
On the plus side, the two leads share a generous amount of genuine chemistry even as they travel through a plot structure that you can map out with your eyes closed.  This dynamic is never more crucial than it is in a romantic comedy, and a lot of faults can be forgiven just for getting this part right.  Drew Barrymore gives her most genuine, convincing performance in years when paired opposite Grant (the almighty king of the genre).  And as for Grant, his obvious awkwardness in the role (he's said that his complete lack of interest in popular music make him terribly miscast in the film) only deepens his endearment to the audience and makes him more appealing as a flawed romantic character.

Still, the film never achieves the greatness that it has in its grasp.  As a result, the film isn't quite as romantic, not quite as funny and not nearly as insightful as it should have been.  But the performers' charm makes you want to convince yourself you're being more entertained than you actually are.  B-

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