Lately I have been very hard on that reliable old standby, the romantic comedy. I’ve said that the recent crop of them are neither romantic or funny and I even went so far as to suggest that The Holiday is misogynist. Today we’re talking about a different kind of romantic comedy, the trademarked Drew Barrymore Rom Com®. This genre contains some of the laughs missing from Because I Said So, the romance absent from Catch and Release and none of the woman bashing. What it does have are stories so formulaic I experience déjà vu while watching them.
The breakdown for a Drew Barrymore romance fest is simple. Act One sees the quirky couple—in this case she’s a substitute plant caregiver, he’s a faded 80s pop star—meet. Sparks fly. Act Two has the pair falling in love under unlikely circumstances. Things go great until the ugly confrontation that leads to separation and general unhappiness. Act Three contains the Grand Gesture. He or she, depending on the movie, moves heaven and earth to win the other back. Insert happy ending.
That’s the basic plot of all of her romantic opuses from 50 First Dates to Fever Pitch and beyond. Only the faces change. Barrymore is a warm, engaging screen presence and often that is enough to carry one of these movies, but Music and Lyrics falls flat. Her co-star, rom com vet Hugh Grant, seems off his game, and I didn’t sense a great deal of chemistry between the two.
On paper Grant’s casting as an 80s has-been pop idol seems inspired. He has the looks (and nails the 80s era mullet) and just the right self-depreciating attitude, but his comic timing seems askew and perhaps he’s a bit long in the tooth to continue playing his brand name bumbling Englishman role.
Music and Lyrics is predictable—here’s a spoiler: they get together at the end. Big Surprise!—but so are most romantic comedies. There are some laughs here, but with little chemistry between the leads it’s as though we’re laughing at them rather than with them.