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"About a Boy"

Directed by Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz.
Written by Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz.  Based on the novel by Nick Hornby.
Starring Hugh Grant, Toni Collette and Nicholas Hoult.
Release Year:  2002
Review Date:  5/25/02


After seeing and not enjoying “High Fidelity”, the last film adaptation of a book by British author Nick Hornby, my friend Alexis told me to check out the book instead.  She loved the read and thought that I might too...but, I find it tough to wade through a novel of a movie that I have already seen.  So, I read his second novel instead, “About a Boy”, and I really liked it.  Naturally, I had to see the movie version of this one to see if they would screw it up.

Hugh Grant stars as Will, a 38-year-old “trustafarian” (i.e., one who lives off of a rich trust) that has a beautiful flat somewhere in London.  Since he doesn’t work (he lives off the royalties of a song written by his father), he lies around all day watching TV, playing pool or getting his haircut.  Oh, and he dates attractive women to entertain himself, even if this doesn’t give his life any meaning.  Then, after being set up with a woman that happens to have a 3-year-old, his eyes open to a new opportunity:  dating single moms!  After struggling to find ways to meet these so-called perfect women (you have to see the movie to see why he thinks this is so perfect), he joins a group called SPAT—Single Parents, Alone Together.  Although he doesn’t really have a child of his own, he makes up a story about his so-called two-year-old son, Ned, to bag (whoops, in Brit English that’s “shag”) the ladies.  And, this works out, until......he dates one of the women of the SPAT group named Susie, who brings along Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), a child of another SPAT member whom she is babysitting for the day.  Once Marcus, who is suffering through problems at home with his single mother, hooks up with the soulless Will, things really start to change for the both of them.

As a movie, “About a Boy” has a fantastic mix of laughs and dramatic moments, courtesy of the acting by Hoult and—yes, I have a hard time saying it, too—the Oscar-nominated Toni Collette as Marcus’ mum Fiona.  Grant is perfect for this role.  My cousin Ron and I were talking recently about Hugh Grant, because he was complaining that Grant always seems to be playing the same character over and over again.  My argument was that, much like Schwarzenegger, Morgan Freeman or Adam Sandler, if you can do one it well!  Hugh Grant does most of his acting with his charm, anyway, and his famous goofiness works well as he clumsily tries to by sympathetic to Marcus’ home life throughout the film.  The bit players here are all pretty good, as directed by the “American Pie” boys, Paul & Chris Weitz.  The directors do a good job of making London look like a pretty quiet place in many of its scenes, while mixing this with some shots of Will walking around crowded grocery stores or music stores; I really liked the way the film was shot.


However, as a book adaptation, “About a Boy” has some problems that apparently are only problems for fans of the book, since the author is an executive producer and co-screenwriter of the film and must have signed off on the final third of the film anyway.  The first two acts of the film are right on track with how I remember the book going, save for one change with the music that Will first gives to Marcus for Christmas.  It’s a minor detail—with Mystikal’s “Shake Yo’ Ass” being the new substitute—but, a line that I don’t remember from the book (involving what Marcus thinks of black people) is a bit offensive and out of place here.  But, I didn’t like the new ending at all; it just feels too good and by the time everyone is sitting around Will’s apartment celebrating another Christmas together, I was looking for a rag.  Also, what’s up with that school concert?  I had to literally re-read the last six chapters today to remember if that ever happens; it doesn’t, and what does happen involves two characters that are only token to the plot of the movie version:  Ellie (that girl from Marcus’ school that is a little older and is his crush) and Marcus’ father Clive, who is in the film for only one scene and has no lines.  I actually liked the ending from the book, but apparently Hornby wanted a do-over with this one and I am not a fan.

Overall, the movie as a separate entity is entertaining, funny, and well-performed...but, if you’ve read the book, expect to be a little surprised by the new turn of events.  There aren’t many movies out right now like “About a Boy” and this one fits the bill for almost any audience.

Rating:  $9.00 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09