And if they don't burn down the house with any sparks they set off in Music and Lyrics , they at least make it amusingly watchable.
It's about songwriting, has-been pop stars, the Britney-Christina-Shakira bellydancers of girl pop and not much else. Any romantic or personality “issues” it reaches for it never quite grasps.
But if you get any pleasure from watching two of the best romantic comedy actors of the past 20 years do their thing and give their all, then this is the date movie for you.
In a spot-on and hilarious opening, we see an '80s Brit-pop band in the Spandau Ballet/Wham! mold bounce through a video of their tune “You are Silver, I am Gold” They were called PoP. And Alex (Grant) used to be their keyboardist, composer and rump-shaking, back-up sex symbol.
The band broke up. The lead singer's a huge Hollywood star. Alex is stuck doing county fairs, amusement parks and high school reunions, singing and shimmying in front of shrieking 40somethings to a tape-recorded music track. Then, his manager (Brad Garrett) wins him a second chance.
The pop-star of the moment, Cora (Haley Bennett) was a fan as a toddler. She wants Alex to write her a new break-up-with-my-beau tune, with this title, “Working Our Way Back to Love.”
By Friday. Big problem.
Bigger problem: He doesn't do lyrics.
He tries out a professional lyricist, and they don't click. But the dizzy blonde who comes in to tend to his plants (Barrymore) is a lyricist savant.
He needs her help. She's reluctant. But Alex wins Sophie over, and they get down to it, him noodling at the keyboard (Grant really plays) and her nervously clicking her pen.
They work away, and take a tumble with one another in the process. She's never gotten over the jerk college professor (Campbell Scott) who used her, tossed her aside and then wrote a novel about someone just like her that's become an embarrassing best seller. He has self-esteem issues of his own. Can love find a way?
Grant is as charming as ever, and he hurls himself into the part. Singing, hip-shaking, tossing off the quips, he's almost the Hugh of old.
Barrymore, playing yet another lovelorn waif, does something she wouldn't do even when Woody Allen asked her to in Everyone Says I Love You . She sings.
If Music and Lyrics were a song, you'd have to say it doesn't have a good beat, though it is easy to dance to. You've got to appreciate the guts of an actor willing to sing, dance and say, even in character, “I'm a happy has-been.”