On paper, Two Weeks Notice must have looked like a winner–two popular stars, Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant, a light romantic comedy, a bit of idealism, great New York settings, the two leads (in the long tradition of romantic comedy) overcoming mutual resistance as they fall in love. The problem is that Bullock, who also produced the film, seems to have ignored the record of Marc Lawrence, the writer/director she hired. Lawrence’s filmography is a catalogue of dismal mediocrity: Miss Congeniality, The Out-of-Towners, Forces of Nature. If you liked those films, then maybe you’ll like this one.
Bullock plays Lucy Kelson, a Harvard Law School over-achiever, driven by her parents to succeed, not for financial gain, but for the progressive causes in which they believe. Grant is George Wade, a wisecracking multi-millionaire playboy, spokesperson for his family’s construction business and, incidentally, married. The company is developing property in Coney Island (just a few blocks from where Bullock lives with her parents) and, as part of their project, they plan to tear down an architecturally significant building that now houses a community center. Bullock is fighting to save the building, so she meets Grant in a professional capacity. He’s immediately entranced and hires her as his company’s lawyer. $250,000 a year and a cool loft apartment appears to be today’s price for selling out.
That’s essentially the story, interspersed with Kelson and Wade going through a series of activities together and getting to know one another, essentially setups for a variety of intended comic turns. The comedy, such as it is, is based on a handful of themes, in particular jokes about the very rich (Wade: "My life is like a game of Monopoly.") and their excesses (helicopters, yachts, closets big enough to hold the entire Saks Fifth Avenue men’s department) and jokes about Kelson’s ordinary characteristics (snoring, compulsive eating under stress). Not every joke is totally awful, but wit is noticeably absent, and you know that Lawrence knew he was in trouble when they descend to the Farrelly level with such scenes as earrings caught in the zipper of trousers and an urgent need for the bathroom in the middle of a traffic jam on the 59th Street bridge.
On top of that, there is no chemistry at all between Grant and Bullock; from what’s on screen it’s impossible to believe that they give a whit about one another. The secondary roles, often the source of the best humor in comedies, are all underdeveloped, characterless and flat. The only one with any promise at all is Kelson’s mother (Dana Ivey) who gets to fix her face in an intensely disapproving grimace that has more energy than the rest of the film together. Too bad she gets little else to do.
And, finally, Lawrence’s script commits the commonest of sins–utter predictability. There’s not an unexpected turn or a glimmer of surprise anywhere here. The audience at the theater could be heard in a collective yawn.