[Screen It]

(2002) (Sandra Bullock, Hugh Grant) (PG-13)

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Romantic Comedy: After taking a job for the playboy real estate developer she despises, a legal activist realizes that she might actually like him after she gives her two weeks notice.
Lucy Kelson (SANDRA BULLOCK) is a single lawyer who inherited her community activist mindset from her ultra-liberal parents Ruth (DANA IVEY) and Larry (ROBERT KLEIN). Accordingly, she isn't above trying to prevent the demolition of various landmark buildings in New York with her friends, Meryl (HEATHER BURNS) and Tom (JONATHAN DOKUCHITZ), although their actions are unsuccessful and land them in jail.

Once out, Lucy is determined to confront millionaire developer George Wade (HUGH GRANT) and give him a peace of her mind. A selfish but good-natured playboy who really lets his brother Howard (DAVID HAIG) run most of the business, George needs a new Chief Counsel and decides on the spot that Lucy would be perfect for the job.

She's naturally hesitant as he's the antithesis of everything she believes in, but his lucrative offer and promise not to tear down the Long Island Community Center changes her mind. Besides, she'll also have his company's resources at her disposal to help other charitable causes.

Yet, George is more interested in her decision-making regarding what are otherwise trivial matters in his life and eventually treats her like his personal assistant. She puts up with that for a rather long while, but eventually becomes fed up and announces her two weeks notice.

He's shocked and dismayed as he's come to rely on her tastes and opinions, but she proceeds to interview various potential replacements for her job, including June Carter (ALICIA WITT) who's fresh out of law school. As the days count down toward her departure, Lucy and George soon realize that terminating their relationship where they've grown to know each other so well might not be the best thing for either or both of them.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
With each subsequent release of a romantic comedy, it's becoming harder to tell them apart or, as a reviewer, find some new way to write about them. That's because they're repetitive, formulaic and are now starting to run out of whatever limited novelty filmmakers have been able to stuff into them.

That said, such films' target audiences - namely older and/or married women - still seem to enjoy them. Thus, about the only way to review them is simply to state whether the latest such releases meet the requirements and expectations of the genre.

"Two Weeks Notice" certainly has the obligatory elements. In it, Sandra Bullock ("Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," "Murder By Numbers") and Hugh Grant ("About a Boy," "Bridget Jones's Diary") play the usual two characters who don't initially get along but display the standard friction and sparks that indicate they eventually will. After bouts of flirting and smart dialogue, and some scenes featuring colorful supporting characters and a soundtrack filled with the usual romantic comedy mix of the old and new, the two have a falling out before the foregone happy reunion and finale.

The film's strength is that Bullock and Grant are such "old" pros at playing their respective parts that they could do so with their eyes closed. Viewers will undoubtedly enjoy seeing them paired together along with hearing their bits of dialogue and snappy exchanges, all overseen by Marc Lawrence who steps behind the camera for the first time after penning the likes of "Miss Congeniality" and "Forces of Nature."

Although Grant is running the risk of overexposing and thus diluting his charming scoundrel persona, he is rather entertaining in the part and gets the best lines that he delivers with full aplomb. Aside from Rupert Everett, few actors can do so much with both good and banal dialogue that might otherwise sound pedestrian or bad coming from another performer's mouth.

While Bullock has some funny moments (and an embarrassing "bathroom" scene that feels completely out of place in this sort of film), her character and/or portrayal feels a bit more tired. Although she stands toe-to-toe with Grant, he gets the far better lines and laughs.

The chemistry between them sizzles at times - particularly early on - but then alternates between being bland and nearly non-existent. Part of the problem is that the plot - or what's standing in for one - doesn't provide enough romantic or comedy material or complications off which they can play. At times the performers look and feel stranded, and the drought is even worse for the supporting characters.

Heather Burns ("Miss Congeniality," "You've Got Mail") appears as Lucy's best friend, but then disappears for so long that I initially forgot who she was when she briefly reappears late in the film for one scene. Dana Ivey ("Orange County," "Mumford") and Robert Klein ("Primary Colors," "Next Stop Wonderland") get a few funny moments playing Lucy's liberal parents - as does Dorian Missick ("Shaft," "3D") as George's driver and chess opponent - but none of them get enough material or time to make much of an impression or difference.

Alicia Witt ("Vanilla Sky," "Urban Legend") and David Haig ("Tom and Viv," "Four Weddings and a Funeral") appear as the film's token complications with her character generating jealousy and his some tough decisions. Yet, despite a decent amount of screen time regarding the former, Lawrence doesn't really use her to his or the film's best advantage. That also holds true for a running gag regarding Lucy's voracious appetite that's rarely funny and never delivers (expect, I suppose, in the aforementioned bathroom scene).

If not for the presence of Bullock and Grant, this would otherwise be an instantly forgettable and easy to overlook film. It's still pretty much that, but at least they make the effort relatively easy to watch. It's just too bad that the plot is lacking and that the chemistry between their characters doesn't maintain the sizzle it occasionally generates.

Decent, but innocuous and offering nary a surprise or unexpected plot or character development, this romantic comedy doesn't possess enough of either obligatory element to appeal to anyone beyond diehard aficionados of the genre. "Two Weeks Notice" rates as a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed December 16, 2002 / Posted December 20, 2002

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