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Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2007 01:55 am

Romantic rogue

Give Hugh Grant a decent script, and he’ll deliver

Untitled Document One usually knows what to expect from a Hugh Grant movie, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He guarantees the perfect date movie, or two hours of depression for those who are alone. He has been the predominant male lead in romantic comedies for more than a decade, even those in which his characters are often less than honorable. His persona is imbued with self-deprecating arrogance without losing an ounce of likability. Grant’s latest release, Music and Lyrics, presents him as less of a cad, but he is no less cheeky as a has-been ’80s pop star who tries to make a comeback by writing a song for a teen pop diva. Unfortunately, he can’t write lyrics. Enter Drew Barrymore, a plant waterer who dabbles in writing. Anyone who can’t see where this working relationship will lead should seek out a guide dog. Director/writer Marc Lawrence has proved adept at the genre and a perfect guide for Grant. The previous Grant/Lawrence collaboration, Two Weeks Notice (2002), is a perfect companion piece. Grant plays a wealthy developer who runs afoul of an activist lawyer (Sandra Bullock) who spends her days trying to stop him from tearing down historic buildings. He is desperate for an attorney, and she is desperate to save her beloved community center. Guess where that leads. Here he is more typically in his womanizer mode, and she is a perfect foil. Grant seems right at home in American movies, but his starring debut in this country, Nine Months (1995), isn’t worthy of his talents. Grant is content to continue his carefree relationship with his girlfriend (Julianne Moore), but she is ready to take the next two steps, marriage and a baby. Accidents happen, as suggested by the title, and he does not handle the news well. There are serious issues to explore here, but director Chris Columbus prefers to dumb things down with ridiculous slapstick involving a loutish friend (Tom Arnold) and an incompetent Russian doctor (Robin Williams). My favorite Grant movie is the poorly titled About a Boy (2002). Grant is at his womanizing best as a slacker who pretends to have a son to attract the opposite sex. This is the one Grant movie to defy expectations. About a Boy presents a potentially formulaic situation and then steers clear of the obvious path. Give Grant a great script, and he will deliver the goods.

New on DVD this Tuesday (March 6): Fast Food Nation, Let’s Go to Prison, Confetti,
and Requiem.
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