Two Weeks Notice (12A)
This comedy romance double-hander starring Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock arrives just a month before another, equally fluffy offering: Maid in Manhattan.
This one stars Grant as a millionaire industrialist who falls for the dynamic young lawyer he hires to represent him, while Maid in Manhattan, a similar conceit, stars Ralph Fiennes as a New York politician who loses his heart to a lowly Latino hotel maid, played by Jennifer Lopez.
Having seen both it’s easy to choose the best, and this isn’t it. While the latter is easy-going and light as a soufflé, Two Weeks Notice is a laboured Pretty Woman derivative where quips and one-liners prop up a flaccid script.
Grant’s shallow millionaire woos and discards his women with equal speed, while Bullock’s spunky tomboy type (a familiar guise, just as Meg Ryan is irritatingly ditzy) spends her time protesting against the destruction of ancient New York landmarks – ‘ancient’ meaning dating from the 1930s.
So when Grant’s massive company arrives on her doorstep to bulldoze a local community centre, she gets in the way. The fact that she’s a brilliant lawyer catches Grant’s eye and he hires her. The deal? She’ll work for him as long as he promises to save the centre. All together now: ahhhh…..
But before you can shout ‘I know how this will end’, they’re getting cosy. He finds her indispensable, assiduous and cute. She likes his charming, cavalier attitude. Soon they’re like an old couple, but without the sex. It’s as if that’s been blanked from both their minds.
Two Weeks Notice is an obvious star vehicle, constructed with the sole intention of combining the box office muscle of two highly capable light comedians. Yet it seems to be built of a series of barely connected blocks. The one liners – “You need someone who can write a brief instead of removing yours” or “My life is like Monopoly” – sound contrived within seconds of hearing them, while the transformation of Grant from selfish cad to shining knight is risible at best.
Written and directed by Bullock’s favoured scribbler, Marc (Miss Congeniality, Forces of Nature) Lawrence, Two Weeks Notice offers Bullock no release from her self-imposed treadmill of mediocrity, while Grant goes through the motions. He exercises all the easy charm he’s built up from Four Weddings and a Funeral through to About a Boy. He’s perfectly acceptable in the way that Bullock is. The fact is that neither tries very hard.
The few genuine joys to be found in the picture come from moments that seem ad-libbed. Certainly the two stars appear to enjoy a certain chemistry, but the clash of heads between the skirt-chasing robber baron and the feisty green warrior is more than a little predictable. And when he pays for a kebab with a $100 bill – to show that he has little knowledge of the real world – you just want to scream.
If you want a real rom-com with heart, wait for Maid in Manhattan. This one’s for the birds.
Star rating: **