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About A Boy

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: About A Boy

Starring: Hugh Grant, Toni Collette
Director: Chris Weitz
Rated: PG
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: May 2002
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Nicholas Hoult, Victoria Smurfit, Rachel Weisz, Isabel Brook

Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
3 stars out of 4

It took me a long time to warm up to Hugh Grant, but with "About a Boy," he's finally won me over. From start to finish, Grant is letter perfect in a role that would have been ruined by one misstep. What a treat it is to watch such a gifted performer work. Based on the international best-selling book by "High Fidelity" author "Nick Hornby, "About a Boy" is a delightful little comedy with heart. Not Hollywood greeting-card heart, but the real kind.

Grant plays Will, a self-satisfied 38-year-old Londoner who is shallow and proud of it. He lives off the royalties of the Christmas classic, "Santa's Super Sleigh," written by his late father, and spends his time shopping for clothes, CDs, DVDs and trendy gadgets, tending to his Audi Coupe and trolling for women.

A one-night-stand with a single mother sends Will to a single parents support group in search of fresh flesh. Posing as the single father of a fictitious 2-year-old, he joins S.P.A.T. (Single Parents, Alone Together) and gets a date with Susie (Victoria Smurfit), only to have her bring along Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), the 12-year-old latchkey son of Susie's best friend Fiona (Toni Collette).

When they take the kid home, they find the depressed Fiona in the middle of a suicide attempt. Between dealing with his whacked out mother and school bullies, Marcus is coiled up tighter than a "Fear Factor" contestant before a food challenge. He turns to Will, the closest thing he has to a father figure, for help. Even after discovering the truth about Will's scam, he keeps coming around. Gradually, and totally against Will's wishes, the two become friends.

Matters become even more complicated when Will meets and falls in love with Rachel (Rachel Weisz), who has a 12-year-old son of her own. She assumes that Marcus is Will's son and the guys play along. But once the relationship grows more serious, Will wonders if he can undo the deception without losing Rachel. Further, he wonders why a defiantly one-dimensional man is getting wrapped up with three-dimensional people in the first place.

Directed by Paul and Chris Weitz ("American Pie") from a screenplay by the Weitzes and Peter Hedges, the film moves smoothly back and forth between comedy and drama, thanks in large part to the remarkably adroit performance by Grant. Nicholas Hoult is nearly as impressive, conveying all the discomfort that comes with being 12 without ever getting maudlin or cute. Smurfit, Collette and Weisz all do fine work as well, but this funny, warm, low-key movie belongs to the inspired team of Hoult and Grant. As the summer mega-blockbusters storm into theaters, small treasures like "About a Boy" offer a most welcome alternative to all the bombast.

Copyright 2002 Edward Johnson-Ott

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