You get two bumblers for the price of one in “Two Weeks Notice,” a wafer-thin romantic comedy from writer (and first time-director) Marc Lawrence (“Miss Congeniality”), and that may prove a bit too much for any single movie. The picture stars Hugh Grant, that master of fluttery speech and the hesitant glance, as George Wade, a New York real estate mogul and incorrigible playboy, and Sandra Bullock, who specializes in slapsticky shtick and wide-eyed bewilderment, as Lucy Kelson, an environmental activist he impulsively hires as his chief counsel. After a while on the job (during which she becomes his most trusted aide), however, the perfectionist Kelson tires of the 24/7 demands of her boss, and a reluctant Wade agrees to let her go only after a proper replacement is found. Enter June Carter (Alicia Witt), an Eve Harrington type whose success in catching George’s eye makes Lucy realize her affection for him, and soon she’s adopted the droopy, hangdog look Bullock is so adept at; her reaction causes Wade to see Kelson in a more romantic light, too. The denouement, shall we say, will hardly come as a shock to anyone over the age of four.
There’s nothing obnoxious about the picture, apart from an incongruously gross, and totally unnecessary, scene in which George carries an incontinent Lucy to a nearby RV to use its facilities when they’re stuck in a traffic jam; otherwise it’s rather like a medium-grade network sitcom–mostly inoffensive, fitfully amusing but ultimately so weightless that a decent draft in the auditorium might blow it off the screen. Bullock does exactly the sort of thing you’d expect from her previous pictures: doe-eyed and pouty, she’s an amiable stumblebum, rather like a single-woman modernization of an earlier Lucy–Ricardo–and she’s practiced at the routine. Making Kelson a rabid liberal is also a gag that will appeal to today’s audiences–and indeed, one of the best jokes involves what makes her cry. Grant isn’t in clumsy mode here–instead he’s got a bit of the raffish air he adopted in “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” What’s problematical about Wade is that he’s not so much a character as a walking stand-up routine. Every remark he makes is a glib rejoinder or catty comment, and after awhile his relentless joshing, even in Grant’s accomplished delivery, is exhausting; he’s like a second banana on a half-hour sitcom thrust into the limelight for a full hundred minutes, and the incessant stream of snide one-liners eventually pales. (Indeed, Wade doesn’t say anything remotely serious until his final declaration of love.) Grant does the part well enough, and as usual he has an effortless charm, but this is a distinct comedown after “About a Boy.” It should also be said that the chemistry between Bullock and Grant never really takes hold. We know that they’re supposed to be deeply attracted to one another, but it’s something we have to take for granted (pun intended) rather than feeling.
The supporting cast do what they can with stock material. Witt does the manipulative ingenue thing adequately, and old pros Dana Ivey and Robert Klein get a few laughs as Lucy’s old-style activist parents. David Haig is dull as Wade’s profit-oriented brother, but Dorian Missick is likable enough as George’s easygoing chauffeur. Technically the picture is at best competent; its efforts to glamorize the post-9/11 Big Apple frankly pale beside the recent “Maid in Manhattan,” whose visual sheen cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs doesn’t match. There’s one of those irritatingly bubbly music scores by John Powell to contend with, too.
“Two Weeks Notice” may prove a harmless time-waster for audiences willing to skip yet another viewing of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” and Bullock’s track record suggests that it could score despite its utter predictability and synthetic quality. (Actually, Bullock is more remarkable as a businesswoman than as an actress. Unlike more talented female contemporaries, she hasn’t waited for scripts to come to her but formed a production company to crank out vehicles for herself while other actresses beg for roles from others. The movies that result are hardly masterpieces, but they keep her in starring parts when she might otherwise be in the same situation as, say, Mira Sorvino.) But it’s more likely that, especially up against all the big holiday releases, this picture won’t last much more than the titular fortnight in theaters. It will be more at home on the video shelves, anyway; there its vapid small-screen character won’t be quite so out of place.