Making the Bland: Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant can?t find the right tone in Music and Lyrics.

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When the time comes to write the definitive study of our era’s greatest fake-period-pop-for-the-­movies auteur—Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger, of course—Music and Lyrics won’t figure prominently. A third-rate rom-com about a washed-up British popster who meets his American soulmate, the film lacks the teen spirit that drove That Thing You Do! and Josie and the Pussycats, the two previous films that enlisted Schlesinger to devise their signature tunes. This time, he was hired to write the instrumental score, which is truly incidental, and he had a hand in only a few of the songs. He didn’t even write “Pop! Goes My Heart,” the phony mid-’80s hit that introduces the movie. Onscreen, Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant) is the composer of that song, the peak accomplishment of his career. Now living in Manhattan, the acknowledged “has-been” hasn’t written anything of note since splitting with the lyricist of his old band, Pop! (That exclamation point indicates that Pop! is modeled on Wham!, although the group’s drier material suggests a heterosexual Pet Shop Boys.) Asked to contribute a tune to a Christina/Shakira-type superstar (Haley Bennett), Alex desperately seeks a new word person. Of course, she walks in, unbidden. Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore) is a temporary plant-waterer who throws out lyrics effortlessly when she hears Alex laboring over “Way Back to Love.” He proclaims her “Cole Porter in panties”—a particularly egregious line in a movie stuffed with tacky ones—and soon the new partners have a potential chart-topper, as well as a budding romance. There are complications, of course, but the only one that isn’t beneath mention is Sophie’s festering hatred for her old lit professor, with whom she had an affair that inspired his bestselling roman à clef. The cad told Sophie that she wasn’t a great writer but merely “an inspired mimic.” That’s high praise for pop lyricists and screenwriters alike; perhaps someday writer-director Marc Lawrence will be worthy of it. The only inspired works in Music and Lyrics are the Ivy and Fountains of Wayne songs buried among the high-pitched chatter.