Two Weeks Notice (United States, 2002)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

What can I write about Two Weeks Notice that I haven't written about every mediocre romantic comedy to come down Hollywood's pipeline? There's the cotton candy comparison – the movie is sweet (sometimes too sweet) and airy, with so little substance that it teases without sustaining or satisfying, and is instantly forgotten the moment it is gone. Or the city snowfall metaphor – fresh and full of promise to start, then growing progressively less appealing as the fluff turns to slush. Both are apt when it comes to Two Weeks Notice, a movie that is relentlessly inoffensive and completely unoriginal – two qualities that combine to make it only sporadically charming and rarely (if ever) compelling.

Men and women who go to romantic comedies for no reason other than to see a pair of improbably matched screen characters fall in love will find that Two Weeks Notice fills the bill. Director Marc Lawrence, making his feature debut, knows his target audience, and hones in on them with a singleminded purpose that will alienate nearly everyone else. Yet even for that crowd, there's a flaw. The movie's inevitable happy ending seems rushed. Those who enjoy savoring the payoff may feel that they are being given the bum's rush. Two Weeks Notice is almost all buildup, the romantic comedy's foreplay.

The film's stars, despite both being romantic comedy veterans, are not well matched. Their chemistry is fitful. There are occasional sparks, but they don't last. Part of the problem is Sandra Bullock's Lucy, who is, quite frankly, uninteresting. It's difficult to say whether I'm bored by the actress or this, her staple alter ego, but I spent a good portion of the film wondering why I once found Bullock to be charismatic. Hugh Grant, on the other hand, is a spark plug – lively, charming, and energetic. He delivers nearly every line of dialogue with his trademark panache. He is good enough that he saves more than one scene when Bullock can't carry her own weight.

Lucy Kelson (Bullock) is a liberal lawyer who spends her days protesting the demolition of old buildings by soulless megacorporations. The frequent target of Lucy's protests is George Wade (Grant), a Donald Trump-like bazillionaire whose company makes money by "modernizing" communities. Lucy sees herself as anti-gentrification. George views her as anti-progress. Yet, through a strange set of coincidences, she ends up working for him as his chief counsel. He is impressed by her skills, and the carrot that gets her to accept the job is that, in her position, she can do more good than as an outsider looking in. Over the course of the months during which she works for George, Lucy becomes indispensable, yet her function evolves into more of a personal assistant than an attorney. Eventually, fed up with menial tasks like choosing which suit he should wear, she gives her notice. But, as she prepares to depart, she and George discover that their feelings may run deeper than those of employee and employer.

You know where this is going. I know where this is going. Everyone knows where this is going. The road is mostly clear, cluttered only by the usual misunderstandings that enable a fairly simple romantic comedy like this to stay on the screen long enough to be called a feature film. Lucy has a boyfriend, although we never see him. And her vixen-like replacement (Alicia Witt) makes a blatant play for George right under her nose, which doesn't sit well with Lucy – especially when she walks in on them in the midst of a friendly game of strip chess. Two Weeks Notice is too bland to be either genuinely pleasant or aggressively annoying. Like all but the best romantic comedies, it's unthreatening and disposable.

Two Weeks Notice (United States, 2002)

Director: Marc Lawrence
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Hugh Grant, Alicia Witt, Robert Klein, Dana Ivey
Screenplay: Marc Lawrence
Cinematography: Laszlo Kovacs
Music: John Powell
U.S. Distributor: Warner Brothers
Run Time: 1:38
U.S. Release Date: 2002-12-20
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Sexual Content, Profanity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1