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Music And Lyrics It's frothy and sweet, like the top of a perfect cappuccino. Hugh Grant is a self-professed "happy has-been," playing his befuddled, adorable persona more spot-on than he has since Four Weddings and a Funeral. As Alex, former member of an '80s pop band who years later is playing at water parks and high school reunions, he's settled into a life of lesser expectations. Drew Barrymore, quietly radiant, is Sophie, the underachieving girl Friday who arrives to water--make that overwater--Alex's plants--and to explode him out of that comfy rut. If the plot's a bit farfetched, it matters not, since the two lead characters are so likable--and make such beautiful music together.
Big bonus: the supportive role of Kristen Johnston as Rhonda, Sophie's older sis (and longtime Alex fan) whose hilarious performance threatens to steal the show whenever she's onscreen. (The owner of a chain of successful weight-loss centers, Rhonda tries to comfort a rattled Sophie: "Want to do some stress eating?") The film also marks the remarkable debut of Haley Bennett, who plays a pop star of Britney/Cristina proportions with deadpan sincerity radiating through her skimpy outfits and mega-extensions. As Alex and Sophie work on crafting musical magic, something else is taking hold. It's music to the ears of anyone needing a sweet romantic comedy that hits all the right notes. --A.T. Hurley
Two Weeks' Notice Although Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant display little on-screen romantic chemistry in Two Weeks' Notice, by having them do what they do best the film manages to work around the missing key ingredient. Bullock is on top form as a bumbling but clever woman who is left ashore by her eco-warrior boyfriend and begins to work (against her better judgement) for Grant, the well-spoken and charming yet inept public face of a multi-million-pound building empire. Although sparks conspicuously fail to fly between them, the two make for genial pals and, as a result, the fact that little romance is evident until the end is actually a bonus. It would be easy to dismiss this as just another Hollywood star vehicle, a formulaic rom-com that could have been produced anytime in the last 50 years or so. But it is impossible to deny that, although offering nothing new, the script does at least work well. In casting the stars exactly to type, making no social comment and leaving the audience happily gorged on feel-good vibes by the end, if nothing else Two Weeks' Notice at least offers universal appeal. --Nikki Disney
Miss Congeniality Without Bullock as star and producer, Miss Congeniality would be an insufferable mess as opposed to being a mildly enjoyable trifle that is custom-made for Bullock's established screen persona. Here she plays nerdy FBI agent Gracie Hart, who is given the horrific pseudonym Gracie Lou Freebush (one example of the film's juvenile tendencies) when assigned to infiltrate a beauty pageant to investigate threats of a terrorist attack. Transforming Bullock from frumpy to stunning is a piece of cake (although she gives pageant coach Michael Caine a run for his money), so the film's premise is trivial at best. More enjoyable is her character's uncouth disdain for pageant contestants and her mistaken perception that they're all a bunch of bimbos. The film nicely charts Gracie's realisation that her pageant makeover provides a much-needed ego boost. In addition to Caine's effortless scene-stealing, pageant host William Shatner and organiser Candice Bergen are smart choices for comedic support (Shatner is a perfect Bert Parks wannabe) and provide a credible foundation for the comedy to really pay off. --Jeff Shannon