Review by Simon Bell
The Weitz brothers Paul and Chris, responsible for such trashy fodder as
American Pie and the Chris Rock flop Down to Earth, look to pastures new in
making Nick Hornby's popular north London-set novel into a motion picture.
The writer has had two previous works adapted for the screen, both to reasonably successful effect, while the American brethren were seen in Year 2000's fantastic Chuck & Buck... All bodes well then.
For a lead, they have the UK's current most bankable star Hugh Grant: the floppy haired ditherer here ditching the dithering and floppy hair, to cries of 'best work of his career' and 'a most gifted and accomplished actor'. He's still Hugh Grant though.
This time around he chops his locks to play Will, on the surface a ladykiller, but really just a big kid with too many toys and spare hours.
Living off the royalties of his one-hit wonder Dad's Christmas top 10 hit, Will has no job and wiles away the days in the company of daytime TV and an array of gadgetry that would make any Stuff subscriber gag with envy.
He never sees one woman for more than two months and claims that if all men are, indeed, islands, then he 'likes to think of himself as Ibiza'.
That is until he realises the joys of single mums. Itching for a shag and indebted to any bit of trouser who pays her more than a passing glance, the ditched and lonely progenitress, Will decides, is the perfect pull. Tracking his would-be victims to a meeting of SPATs (Single Parents Alone Together), he concocts an unlikely story of fatherly devotion to a two-year-old son, snares a tasty blonde and eventually meets suicidal New Age mother Toni Colette and her misfit 12-year-old kid.
Marcus (Nicholas Hoult - impressive, but with enough precociousness to perhaps try the patience of some) loves his mum and eyes Will as her ideal next suitor.
Sticking to what it says on the tin, About a Boy has little in the way of a surprise or challenge. Bergman this is not. But Grant's affable rogue has sufficient spirit to lift the farce. The dialogue too, littered as it is with Will's recognisable mutterings on life and love, is waggish but disarming.
The sidelined Colette and love interest Rachel Weisz do all they can in support, but in the end the skirts are no match for the callow protagonists' puerility: This is very much about man and boy.