Ever wonder what happens to those phenomenal teen-oriented bands ('N Sync, The Raspberries, The Bay City Rollers, Wham) that flash by like soaring comets, never to be heard of again? But, more important, what happens to the number-two pretty boy in a band, where the front man goes on to further fame and fortune (front man Justin Timberlake comes to mind)?
"Music and Lyrics" attempts to find entertaining answers to those questions. Thanks to actors Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, we may not have accurate answers, but we are entertained.
As Alex Fletcher of the fictional 1980's sensation, PoP, Grant portrays that almost forgotten second banana, whose life and career are slipping simultaneously into oblivion. Because he is really playing himself as a singer, it is, in a strange way, the role of a lifetime. Although always forthright and funny, Grant has basically been treading water since 1994's "Four Weddings and a Funeral." Now, at least, he gets to sing. And he sings well.
Staying alive with occasional royalty checks, theme park retro concerts and self-deprecating witticisms, Alex suddenly discovers that he has flimsy chance at a genuine comeback. It's in the form of teenage singing flavor-of-the-year Cora Corman (newcomer Haley Bennett, doing her best to imitate Christine Aguilera). A longtime PoP fan, Cora offers him a chance to write her a hit song and perform it with her onstage at Madison Square Garden. But he must produce the masterwork in 36 hours.
Never one to write lyrics, Alex is up the creek, paddle-less, until the meet-cute moment when Sophie Fisher (Barrymore) walks into his Upper Westside Manhattan apartment to fill in for his "plant girl." While watering one of his plastic plants, she unconsciously mumbles catchy lyrics as he tickles the piano keys trying to create a melody to Cora's song title, "Way Back Into Love." Of course, Alex instantly recognizes her genius and the race is on to woo her into working with him. Sophie plays hard to get, but Alex is helped by the still groupie-level obsession for Alex from her older sister Rhonda (scene-stealer Kristen Johnston).
Cora accepts the tune, putting Alex's career back on track. However, what to do about the love forming between the suddenly successful song writing team? Everything grows increasingly mushy and romantic, which seemed to please the teenage girls packed in the Rockville Centre theater on opening weekend.
Written by Arthur Schlesinger, "Way Back Into Love" is actually pretty good, as is Grant who actually sings it and other Schlesinger songs in "Music and Lyrics." Maybe, Grant really should restart his career as an aging teen singing sensation. But he'd better keep Barrymore around, if he wants to slide back into romantic comedy. Hugh and Drew make a great duet. They should do it again.