Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Monkey Movie Review - "Music and Lyrics"

Today I am starting a new feature - Monkey Movie Review, which will incorporate a primate's perspective into film critiques. My first review is the recent release "Music and Lyrics" starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore.

"M&L" was directed by Marc Lawrence, who also directed a number of Sandra Bullock movies. Included were Two Week's Notice - which also starred Hugh Grant. I've never heard Marc say anything bad about monkeys, so Props to The Marc-meister for that!

This film is the story of Alex Fletcher, a washed up 80's pop star (Grant) who gets involved with Sophie Fisher (Barrymore), a girl who starts out watering his houseplants, but winds up growing love and new life in his heart.

There are two obstacles that this film has to overcome, and it succeeeds admirably.

First there is a considerable age difference between Grant and Barrymore - I am guessing at least 10 years. However they make us believe the romance because Grant has a boyish charm that takes years off of his screen persona, while Drew's compelling performance makes us believe that she has a depth and maturity that exceeds her chronological age.

Second there is the issue of music that is created for fictional performers. In many cases, it . . . well, sucks! Good examples would be the rock songs that the kids perform on "Saved By the Bell" and "Full House". It is so bad that often, I see monkeys sticking bananas in their ears just to lessen the pain! However, in "Music and Lyrics", there are two songs that break this mold - Pop Goes My Heart (a catchy 80's pop tune) and Way Back Into Love (a poignant ballad about searching for love). Both songs, written by Adam Schlesinger, could be chart climbers on their own, even if they weren't part of the soundtrack.

The story line "somewhat" follows the Nora Ephron romantic comedy format, but in many ways breaks new ground with unexpected plot turns. For example, in one scene, you think that Sophie has abandoned their musical partnership at a critical time - only to find out that she saves Alex's career by a last minute decision. This came as a surprise to the audience.

Brad Garrett contributes a believeable performance as Chris Riley, Alex Fletcher's agent. He successfully breaks out of the "Raymond's brother" mold and creates a likeable, quirky character who seems like the kind of person who would be managing an over the hill pop singer.

All in all, I liked this movie very much! I thought that the quality of "Music and Lyrics" was well above the pap that Hollywood is churning out these days. Both Hugh Grant's and Drew Barrymore's performances were powerful and enjoyable. This is one of the few movies that I would go and see again!

From a primate perspective, I think that bonobos will enjoy this movie more than chimpanzees. Bonobos have a much gentler nature. They are a matriarchal society (women rule) and they solve conflicts by having sex rather than fighting. Romantic comedies are their forte.

Chimps, on the other hand, tend to be more violent. They prefer action films like Mission Impossible, with helicopters getting blown up, and dozens of charred soldiers being tossed skyward by huge explosions.

Bottom line - an Opposable Thumbs Up for "Music and Lyrics"!

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