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'Music and Lyrics' drips like muzak

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Hugh Grant plays a former '80s pop teen idol in "Music and Lyrics" and he takes to the part with appalling aplomb. Early on, in the best scene in the movie, we see him in an MTV-style music video with his Duran Duran-ish group PoP, and he's garishly mod. In the present day, as an official has-been, Alex Fletcher spends most of his screen time mugging sheepishly, as if he couldn't quite face up to what he has become.

He doesn't carry on this way for his own sake. Alex is actually rather comfortable in his skin. He's made his peace with playing state fairs and high school reunions. But he thinks that some people may wish to avert their eyes and he prefers to spare them discomfort.

The flip side of this are the hordes of 40-ish female fans who still crowd his appearances. To them he remains a "Tiger Beat" idol, and Alex does his best to wiggle and shake in their honor. His fans feel younger when they watch him croon. Alex, however, feels older, and his career prospects are drying up.

If writer-director Marc Lawrence had stuck with Alex's faded glory, "Music and Lyrics" could have been terrific. It could have been about something. Instead, he's confected a curdled valentine about how Alex falls in love with Sophie (Drew Barrymore), the woman who cares for his plants and who also – surprise! – turns out to be a gifted lyricist. Since Alex can't write lyrics, it's a match made in Hollywood heaven, where the air is often a bit thin.

Through a series of contrived plot byways, Alex is asked to whip up a new song for Cora Corman (Haley Bennett), the reigning Britney Spears-like star.

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