Shortly after playing an "American Idol"-like judge in "American Dreamz", Hugh Grant finds himself playing a washed-up pop star in "Music and Lyrics", an enjoyable little take on the romantic comedy from writer/director Marc Lawrence. The film opens with former 80's star Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant) getting interviewed about a potential project called "Battle of the 80's Has-Beens", although he's mildly dismayed to find out that it's a literal battle - in the boxing ring. Even state fairs are cancelling appearances by Fletcher.
Fletcher's manager (Brad Garrett, who's an inspired choice to go against Grant) gets a call from "bigger than Britney" pop star Cora (Haley Bennett), who wants to record a song with Fletcher - if he can write another song after being away from songwriting for a decade. In steps his plant lady, Sophie (Drew Barrymore) who comes up with a few good lines when put on-the-spot.
So, the two set out to write Cora's next pop song, finding themselves falling for one another, as well. However, as with all romantic comedies, there must be conflict (in this case, a couple, including an unnecessary affair for Barrymore's character with a novelist, played by Campbell Scott) before the couple can be back together in the end. As with Lawrence's other films, this is lightweight fare that throws together a basic structure and lets talented actors in the driver's seat.
In this case, Barrymore and Grant handle the material quite perfectly, riffing off one another quite well. Although Barrymore's character's a little too flighty, she's balanced by Grant's completely dry, deadpan delivery. Grant's self-depricating brand of humor is a perfect fit playing a washed-up musician, and some of the actor's throwaway lines hit perfectly. They're backed up by a very good supporting cast, including Kristen Johnston ("3rd Rock From the Sun"), Garrett and Bennett. It's been too long since Johnston's done comedy, and Bennett does a fine job portraying an arrogant, pseudo-spiritual pop star.
"Music and Lyrics" is as fluffy as your average pop tune, it never wears out its welcome and Lawrence has rounded up a great cast who makes the material work better than it does on paper.
VIDEO: "Music and Lyrics" is presented by Warner Brothers in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality wasn't terrible, but it wasn't anything to write home about, either. While most of the film appeared moderately crisp, some scenes could look at least mildly soft, especially some of the dimly-lit moments. Other flaws included some slight edge enhancement and a couple of minor traces of artifacting. No print flaws were spotted, however. Colors remained natural and accurate, with nice saturation and no smearing. Overall, this was an average presentation.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation is a pure "comedy mix", remaining dialogue-driven throughout the entire feature. Surrounds kick in on a couple of occasions for some minor ambience and reinforcement of the score, but the picture's audio is otherwise front-heavy. Audio quality is fine, with clear dialogue and no distortion or other issues.
EXTRAS: "Note-for-Note" making-of documentary (13 minutes), a very funny gag reel, 11 minutes of deleted scenes and the music video starring Grant's character.
Final Thoughts: "Music and Lyrics" isn't without some issues, but it's mostly a breezy treat thanks to fine performances. The DVD presents okay image quality and fine audio quality, along with a few minor extras. Rent it.
The Film B-