- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Marc Lawrence’s “Music and Lyrics” follows a has-been ‘80s pop star and his comeback attempt — an amusing and timely premise for a film amid the profusion of reunion tours nowadays.

Unfortunately, while taking aim at pop culture’s vacuity and excesses, it only succeeds in pointing out its own shortcomings: lackluster writing that relies on star power to sell it (Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore), derivative content and a bloated budget.

Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t make films about them.

Though a dozen critics probably will disagree, the best notes in “Music” sound in the opening credits, when Alex Fletcher (Mr. Grant) is depicted performing in a Wham!-esque music video. Mulleted, gyrating and dopey-faced, Alex embodies all those over-the-top pop acts we embraced in the Reaganomics era (and secretly still do).

“Pop! goes my heart,” he croons amid plinking keyboards and whip sound effects. It’s classic — awesome and cringe-inducing all at once. (A “Pop-Up Video” version later in the flick takes it a step further. Oh, how we mourn that show’s demise.)

These, we learn, were Alex’s glory days with his band, PoP — the days before the lead singer split for a successful solo career and left all the others and their subsequent projects to wither in the bargain bins at record stores.

Yet, what goes around comes around.

Case in point: Alex’s biggest gigs lately are at Knott’s Berry Farm and a high school reunion.

But wait; he’s given a second chance when a raunchy Britney Spears-like star, Cora Corman (Haley Bennett), asks him to write her next big hit, a duet for the two of them.

As it turns out, Alex is a terrible lyricist and only has a few days to come up with something, … which leads him to approach Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore with a broken Brooklyn accent), his quirky plant caretaker, who apparently has a flair for words.

When they finally compose a meaningful love song (infused with their growing emotions toward each other), the songwriting duo finds that the “Buddha-loving” Cora’s interpretation includes writhing on the floor and touching herself. The indignant Sophie will force Alex to consider whether a second taste of stardom is worth selling out.

Meanwhile, they’ll make out, but with only low-wattage electricity between them.

Mr. Lawrence’s script has its moments. The Cora character, for example, is a wonderful caricature that, indeed, has real-life counterparts. While performing in a stripper-chic costume as her massive Buddha set piece looks on, she captures the ethos of a group we’ll call the “Um”-chanters; those oh-so-spiritual Hollywood celebs who rock Gucci shades and Christy Turlington-brand spandex in yoga class (which they’ll likely interrupt when someone rings their Sidekick).

The trouble is, “Music” has no teeth and suffers from that which it decries. The movie sure feels like it’s writhing on the floor to appease the audience rather than making an artistic statement.

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TITLE: “Music and Lyrics”

RATING: PG-13 (Some sexual content)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Marc Lawrence.

RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes

WEB SITE: http://musicandlyrics.warnerbros.com/

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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