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'Two Weeks Notice'

'Two Weeks' doesn't give Grant, Bullock enough time

Friday, December 20, 2002

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

There's nothing quite like a good romantic comedy at Christmas time. Too bad "Two Weeks Notice" isn't it.

'Two Weeks Notice'

RATING: PG-13 for some sex-related humor

STARRING: Sandra Bullock, Hugh Grant

DIRECTOR: Marc Lawrence

WEB SITE: twoweeksnoticemovie.com


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A colleague once said that he automatically deducts a half-star from any review of a Hugh Grant movie I write -- on the theory that I overrate the witty, brainy Brit. But even Grant's light, lovable performance cannot save "Two Weeks Notice," a movie that is predictable (not an automatic crime in comedy), not terribly funny and lacking in romantic chemistry. It seems clear that Grant and co-star Sandra Bullock like each other, but they don't generate much real heat.

Bullock plays idealistic lawyer Lucy Kelson, a Harvard University grad who is the daughter of old-time liberals. She dresses like an aging hippie and isn't afraid to lie down on the street to stop a wrecking ball from demolishing a community theater. She despises everything George Wade (Hugh Grant), a playboy millionaire, stands for -- although she agrees to be chief counsel for his family's real-estate development firm to save a Coney Island community center.

In short order, George is relying on Lucy to do everything, from selecting stationery to buying a mattress. But when George summons Lucy one too many times, she gives her notice and starts looking for a replacement, forcing both of them to re-evaluate their relationship.

To its credit, "Two Weeks Notice" makes excellent use of its New York location -- from sending its leads to Shea Stadium, the South Street Seaport, Coney Island boardwalk and other city locales, plus ritzy West-chester County. The movie manages to slip in a condensed history lesson about the Chrysler Building, which serves as an always-stunning backdrop.

But Bullock's Lucy seems a variation of other heroines she's played, namely the FBI agent in "Miss Congeniality" who undergoes a radical makeover and the lonely Chicago transit worker in "While You Were Sleeping." Lucy sheds her hippie duds for appropriate office wear, but she gets the requisite Cinderella makeover, complete with gorgeous gown inspired by vintage Yves St. Laurent and Valentino.

Grant distinguished himself in "About a Boy" and played a convincing cad in the sharply written "Bridget Jones's Diary" in recent years, but he could do "Two Weeks Notice" in his sleep. He's like a light-fingered chef who knows just how to fashion a souffle or turn egg whites and sugar into a meringue; apply too much comedic pressure here and this souffle would have tumbled down.

Another plus comes in the casting of Dana Ivey and Robert Klein as Lucy's activist parents, but David Haig -- playing George's stuffy brother -- looks nothing like Grant, which proves a slight distraction. Alicia Witt is a young, eager lawyer who would love to work under George Wade, and Donald Trump and Norah Jones turn up in cameos.

Making his directorial debut is writer Marc Lawrence, who also penned "Miss Congeniality" and the Bullock-Ben Affleck movie "Forces of Nature." A passage where Lucy is in desperate need of a restroom is simply cringe-worthy, and Lawrence occasionally uses music as a form of movie spackle, patching any gaps between scenes.

I also got the sense that some material, concerning Lucy's hypochondria or penchant for self-medicating for colds and her barely seen best friend, was cut. The romantic comedy may include a remix of "Baby, You've Got What It Takes" but "Two Weeks Notice" doesn't have enough of what it takes.

Barbara Vancheri can be reached at bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632.

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