By Aaron Cutler
By Amy Nicholson
By Simon Abrams
By Chris Klimek
By Nick Schager
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
It had to happen eventually: the adorably scattered Sandra Bullock and the self-deprecatingly charming Hugh Grant paired in a romantic comedy. As predictable as Miss Congeniality and almost as broad, Two Weeks Notice is an undemanding, by-the-numbers romance that is made bearable only by the presence of its two ingratiating stars.
Bullock plays lawyer and social activist Lucy Kelson, a dyed-in-the-wool liberal who uses her Harvard law degree to champion the rights of the little guy. Her big cause at the moment is saving the Community Center in her Coney Island neighborhood. The popular meeting place has been targeted for destruction by the heartless profit-mongers at Wade Corporation, one of New York's most elite real estate development firms, which plans to erect high-rise condominiums in its place.
Lucy heads to Wade's Manhattan headquarters to protest. There she encounters George Wade (Grant), the exceedingly glib and charismatic half of the family conglomerate. George provides an attractive "public face" for the company, while brother Howard (David Haig) actually runs it.
When George hears where Lucy attended law school, he offers her a job as the company's chief legal counsel. It seems his normal practice of hiring good-looking but professionally incompetent women has resulted in near-disaster for the firm. Lucy is flabbergasted, since she deplores everything Wade Corporation stands for, but George wins her over by placing her in charge of the firm's charitable contributions and promising not to demolish the Coney Island Community Center.
Shallow and self-absorbed, George treats Lucy as his personal assistant, phoning her at all hours of the day and night, seeking advice on everything from his social life to what to wear. He can't seem to cross the street without her. A frustrated Lucy tries to quit her job, only to find that the contract she so expertly crafted essentially forbids her leaving. She plots her escape.
Polar opposites, Lucy and George are, of course, made for each other, something neither of them seems willing to recognize, much less admit. The fact that the film's premise is as old as the hills isn't a problem. In fact, tried-and-true stories are often the best and most enjoyable ones. Rather, it's the utterly formulaic story line and the entirely predictable array of drunken pratfalls and comic routines that proves a bore. One example finds Lucy bending over to pick something off the floor, only to have her hair catch in George's zipper -- just as someone walks into the room and misconstrues what is going on.
Bullock and Grant are both actors whose on-screen personas vary little from film to film, and probably more than most actors their own personalities are closely identified with the on-screen characters they play. Since her star turn in Speed, Bullock has tended to play very smart but somewhat socially awkward women, enthusiastic but klutzy, idealistic but opinionated. Audiences love her. Why change something that works so well?
Grant also engenders enormous goodwill, as much for his real-life wit and charm as for his performances. Two Weeks Notice succeeds to the extent that it does not because the two actors are so marvelous together -- although they do have chemistry -- but because each, individually, is so endearing. Viewers looking for extremely light, romantic entertainment with a guaranteed happy ending could do worse.
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