About a Boy DVD

Directed by: Paul Weitz and Chris Weitz. Starring: Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, Rachel Weisz, and Toni Collette.

Hugh Grant in About a Boy

Synopsis: Will is a 38-year-old single man who, instead of working, lives off the proceeds of a corny Christmas song his dad once wrote. He’s wary of personal attachments, and fills his life with cool gadgets and various leisure activities, from eating in restaurants to getting his hair “carefully tousled.”

Will’s life changes when he decides that single mums are the perfect dating target: they’re lonely, passionate, and don’t expect commitment from him. To meet single mums, Will decides to pretend that he’s single dad. In a roundabout way, this leads him to meet a special person who will change his life: an awkward 11-year old boy named Marcus.

Marcus is a social misfit. He has no friends at school, and his single mum is prone to depression. In desperation, he insinuates himself into Will’s life. This may sound like kind of a serious, sentimental movie, but the tone is anything but: it’s very funny, often cynical, and refuses to wallow in cheap emotion.

Sample quote: “I’d be the worst possible Godfather. I’d probably drop her on her head at her christening. I’d forget all her birthdays until she was 18. Then I’d take her out and get her drunk. And, let’s face it, quite possibly try and shag her.”—Will (of baby, pictured above)

Comment: I loved Will. Even—maybe especially—when he’s mostly a shallow rotter, I loved him. Kind of envied his lifestyle, really. And yet, I was happy he went on this journey. That he let people in. That he helped assuage Marcus’ loneliness.

This movie really zooms along. It’s only about 110 minutes long, and pretty well every scene is delightful. Obviously the Nick Hornby was a rich source, and adapting it via voice-over works well.

The acting is uniformly superlative. Hugh Grant is fantastic in this part, seeming sexier than ever before, even though this is no romantic comedy. Nicholas Hoult as Marcus acquits himself wonderfully as well, in no small part because he actually looks like a real kid, and not some beautiful Hollywood child. Toni Collette and Rachel Weisz also do good work with their smaller roles. Overall Rating: ****

The Extras: The deleted scenes are well worth a watch, because they’re hilarious. (And if you’re wondering why they were deleted, as I did, you can listen to the director’s commentary on them.) There’s a “making of” featurette, which is fine, though not very long. Music videos for some of the songs, most of which were written especially for the film. And an English-to-English dictionary that, thankfully, is done in a “filmic” way: a scene from the movie is shown, the British phrase is highlighted, and the North American translation is provided.

I did not know that this film was directed by the same people who did American Pie. I guess this movie demonstrates why American Pie is a cut above most teen sex comedies: these guys are actually talented. Their commentary veers into silliness as times, but does point out how certain shots were done, and gives a little insight into working with these actors.

Usability: I had little trouble navigating through these menus. The only problem I had was trying to view the DVD-ROM stuff on the computer—I did have trouble navigating then. And the clips were very jumpy. But that probably has more to do with my computer and its DVD software than the disk itself.