Marc Lawrence's Music and Lyrics works in large part because the original songs written for the film are as memorable and catchy as any real-life single -- making it pretty easy to accept that these are tunes topping the charts. From the opening video for the new wave era "Pop Goes My Heart," to the "Careless Whisper" knockoff "Meaningless Kiss," to the confessional, intimate love song at the end of the film, Lawrence makes the fictional world of Music and Lyrics pleasingly plausible because the songs always fit their time and place. A handful of songwriters pitched in to compose these tracks, but the standout is Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger -- who provided the same service in Tom Hanks' That Thing You Do!, earning an Oscar nomination for writing the title track (one of the best rock songs ever composed for a movie). The uniformly excellent cast is headed by Hugh Grant, who can mix self-loathing with charm better than anyone else on the planet. He is ideally cast in the role of Alex Fletcher, an Andrew Ridgley-like figure eking out a living thanks to a wave of '80s nostalgia. Grant's nuanced performance conveys both Alex's embarrassment about singing these same songs decades after they were hits, while at the same time exuding the understandable pride he feels for having written such a memorable tune. Drew Barrymore makes a perfect fit for Grant as the sweet but insecure Sophie, creating a tonic for his sarcasm with her natural bubbliness. The two leads clearly know how to carry this kind of movie, and they also get some wonderful color from their supporting cast, including Brad Garrett as a loyal agent, Campbell Scott as Sophie's cold-hearted ex, and Haley Bennett in an impressive debut as a frighteningly plausible composite of every teen idol of the time. Lawrence and company find just enough notes of originality in the romantic comedy formula -- and they put in enough care and craftsmanship -- to make the movie thoroughly enjoyable.
by Perry Seibert review