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:: About A Boy

About A Boy is the third adaptation of British writer Nick Hornby’s novels, following Fever Pitch with Colin Firth and High Fidelity, starring John Cusack. Whereas High Fidelity was transplanted to the USA to appeal to American audiences, About A Boy has thankfully remained set in England, however an American screenwriter and directors are at the helm. At first it seemed an odd choice to have the sibling directors of American Pie take on a gentle, often touching, comedy, but the Weitz brothers did a commendable job, there’s not a pie in sight.

About A Boy, like most Nick Hornby stories, concerns a man who hasn’t quite grown up and whether his obsession be football, records, or himself, he hasn’t managed to work out relationships, though he may have many theories on them. Hugh Grant, the quintessential British bachelor, strikes a middle ground between his Bridget Jones cad and his Four Weddings bumbler, here he bumbles in a caddish sort of way as Will Freeman. Will has an enviable lifestyle, never having to work due to a tacky Christmas song his father composed, and spends his day dividing his ‘units’ of time amongst television, haircuts and serial dating. When he decides that single mothers are good dating material the trouble starts. He meets Marcus, a Spock-like young boy, played with great honesty by Nicholas Hoult, and his depressed hippie mother, Toni Collette, in a role reminiscent of The Sixth Sense, the loving mother who hasn’t a clue what her son is going through. (There is even a reference to Haley Joel Osment, Collette’s other screen son). It’s clear no romance is going to blossom between these two, and the film is really a love story between Marcus and Will, with Rachel Weisz (The Mummy) thrown in towards the end.

There are many genuinely funny moments, Grant knows what he does best and sticks to it. The voice over, both by Grant and Hoult, set them up as equal protagonists, but I wonder if there was an actual need for much of it. The gags did not always compensate for its intrusion. The visions of parents, experienced by both Will and Marcus seemed to appear for no real reason and they were soon forgotten.

The soundtrack, by Badly Drawn Boy, is excellent, not as obtrusive as in most American films, and not too obviously trying to sell a soundtrack album.

Overall, About A Boy is an enjoyable, light entertainment, with an uplifting ending that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy on the inside. If only life were really that simple.

Screening at Westgarth Theatre, Cinema Nova, Cinema Europa, Rivoli Cinemas, Dendy Brighton, and the George Cinemas.