In the battle of the holiday romantic comedies, Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock are the losers.
Their Two Weeks Notice fails to make an impression after Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Fiennes captured hearts in Maid in Manhattan.
Oh, Two Weeks Notice is pleasant in a condescending sort of way, and for those who see this movie first, the starring pair might charm. In comparison to Lopez and Fiennes, however, Bullock and Grant seem artificial, their potential for becoming a couple never made believable. For example, Grant's character has apparently had several divorces - there are jokes throughout the movie about his paying alimony to almost everyone in the immediate area - yet, in the end, Bullock's character falls for him without a qualm. And she's supposed to be a hard-headed lawyer. Better write some loopholes into that pre-nup, sweetie.
Grant plays George Wade, the spokesman for the mega-powerful Wade Corp., which, among other things, develops real estate in New York. Wade Corp. is a big rival of Donald Trump. We know, because he appears in a cameo to tell us so.
George doesn't really run the business; his dumpier brother, Howard (David Haig), does. But George is handsome and witty and articulate. He cuts a dashing public figure. He is the “face” of Wade Corp. He also, for some unknown reason, gets to hire the company's lawyers, and he has a tendency to pick employees such as Bambi, who holds her law degree from the University of San Tropez. Bambi may not be the right name, but you get the picture.
After one such corporate cutie blows a big deal, Howard demands that George hire a “real lawyer, one from Harvard or Columbia.”
Enter Lucy Kelson (Bullock). She's an activist attorney, the kind who tries to save old buildings both through the courts and by forming human chains in front of wrecking balls. After one such effort seems doomed, Lucy decides to confront the bad guy face to face. The bad guy, of course, is George.
They meet on the street, and George uses all of Lucy's persuasive arguments for a sound bite. He asks her where she graduated from. She says, “Harvard.” She's no Bambi, but she's not hard to look at, so George makes her an offer she can't refuse. He'll save the Coney Island Community Center, which is dear to Lucy's heart, and she will work for Wade Corp., running its affairs and its multimillion philanthropic efforts. Oh, and she'll earn a quarter of a mil a year, too. “They've got a real nice Christmas bonus, too,” the chauffeur tells her with a wink.
Writer-director Marc Johnson, who co-wrote Bullock's previous films Miss Congeniality and Forces of Nature, is apparently trying to hearken back to those Doris Day-Rock Hudson comedies or even the Katharine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy movies, with the scrapping couple who ultimately fall in love. But Johnson fails, mostly because his would-be sweeties give little reason to care about them.
Bullock and Grant have both proven they can do comedy, so they're either tired of the genre, lukewarm to each other, or unhappy with the script.
Whatever the reason, at the point where Lucy flings herself into George's arms and says, “I love you,” the reaction from the audience is “Get a grip” rather than “Ahhhhh.”
For a romantic comedy, this is not a good thing.