Let us agree that romantic comedies are the Hershey's kisses of movies and that the '80s duo Wham! is the caramel corn of pop.

But don't prejudge Music and Lyrics. More substantial than a sugary treat, this crunchy rom-com with Hugh Grant as a has-been popster and Drew Barrymore as a never-was poet (they collaborate on a hit song) is simply irresistible.

A half-sweet/half-acid satire of the music industry (and, also, of movie romances), M and L observes how the dimpled ditz and the caddish charmer alter each other's chemistry. Just what Dr. Romance ordered.

The film opens with a sidesplitting '80s-vintage music-video starring PoP!, one-hit wonders singing their bouncy ditty, "Pop! Goes My Heart." (This send-up and the rest of the movie's new tunes, all frothy fun, were written by Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger.)

There's Grant as Alex Fletcher, face smooth as a newborn's bottom and hair moussed and mussed into a mullet, hip-thrusting to drum-machine rhythms like Andrew Ridgely of Wham!

Jump-cut to Alex Fletcher 20 years later. Having faked his way to the middle, PoP!'s lesser half now is content to be a bottom-feeder playing the state fairs and high school reunion circuits. Ambition? Less than zero. (Dissipation becomes Grant. The more debauched he looks, the funnier he seems.)

So when a pop sensation who dances like Shakira and sings like Britney asks Alex, whom she idolized as a kid, to write her a chart-topper, Mr. Minus is nonplussed.

Alex can't abide the pretentious lyricist he's assigned to work with. But Sophie (Barrymore), the hypochondriacal girl subbing for Alex's plant-waterer, proves herself a wordsmith whose lyrics are a good fit with Alex's tune. In essence, Sophie waters Alex's withering career.

With Brad Garrett on hand as Alex's manager and newcomer Haley Bennett as a rump-wriggling pop-tart named Cora, this catchy film skewers music-industry conventions while it re-wires the rom-com.

Music and Lyrics *** (out of four stars)

Produced, written and directed by Marc Lawrence, photography by Xavier Pérez Grobet, original music by Adam Schlesinger, distributed by Warner Bros.

Running time: 1 hour, 36 mins.

Alex Fletcher. . . Hugh Grant

Sophie Fisher. . . Drew Barrymore

Cora Corman. . . Haley Fisher

Chris Riley. . . Brad Garrett

Rhonda Fisher. . . Kristen Johnson

Parent's guide: PG-13 (sexual candor, mild profanity)

Playing at: area theaters

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Contact Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her recent work at http://go.philly.com/
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