Dir: Marc Lawrence US. 2007. 102mins.

After dipping his toe in the murky world of satire with last year's American Dreamz, Hugh Grant retreats to conventional romantic comedy with Music And Lyrics, a bland, undemanding reunion with his Two Weeks Notice (2002) director Marc Lawrence. Grant's blithe spirit and eternal charm should prove enough of a draw to compensate for an underwhelming screenplay in which contrivance constantly wins out over credibility. This is no date movie classic but has enough warm and fuzzy moments to appeal to undemanding Valentine's romantics and is certainly on a par with How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days (2003) or Failure To Launch (2006). If Grant's appeal is still potent then this should rustle up solid, middle-range figures.

A comfortably cast Grant is Alex Fletcher, a former member of 1980s chart-topping sensation Pop now living in the afterglow of his stardom. Opening credits provide a spot-on recreation of a Wham-style promo complete with elaborate mullets, swaying arms and jiggling backsides. Fletcher now coasts along playing high school reunions, county fairs and nostalgia tours.

Then, Britney-style pop princess Cora (Haley Bennett) asks him to write a new song just for her. Time is short and inspiration is absent but the lady who waters his plants does have a way with words. Could he possible collaborate with Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore), revive his career and write a bestselling love song by Friday'

Music And Lyrics never leaves the audience in any doubt that they are heading for a happy ending. There is a distinct absence of true dramatic conflict as the main characters are pushed into each other's company and overcome some tired personal baggage to discover whether they might have a future together. Drew Barrymore's character Sophie is the one who suffers the most from being poorly drawn. Why anyone with a cosy apartment would employ someone to water and tend their paltry collection of foliage is just one of the elements in the film that beggars belief. Sophie also never rings entirely true, coming across as a collection of irritating neuroses rather than an endearing oddball. Perhaps only a young Goldie Hawn could have made her entirely irresistible.

Supporting characters make a modest contribution to the proceedings and the New York locations are attractive without going the route of picture picture postcard prettiness. Grant's comic timing and insouciance just about carries the day even in a film that feels more like a television sitcom where the focus is always on the next big punchline. He retains the ability to make the most flippant of remarks seem amusing and manages to keep Alex's self-deprecation from descending into self-satisfaction. Grant makes it all appear so effortless but at this stage in his career he either needs to find a sharper script or accept an invitation to step out of his comfort zone.

There are only so many bland comedies an audience will accept before seeking their satisfaction elsewhere.

Production companies/backers
Castle Rock Entertainment
Flower Films
Village Roadshow Pictures

US/International distribution
Warner Bros

Marc Lawrence

Executive producers
Bruce Berman
Hal Gaba
Nancy Juvonen

Marc Lawrence

Xavier Perez Grobet

Susan E Morse

Production design
Jane Musky

Adam Schlesinger

Main cast
Hugh Grant
Drew Barrymore
Haley Bennett
Brad Garrett
Kristen Johnston
Campbell Scott