About a Boy: Hugh Grant Gets a Heart

Bachelor weighs gadgets with genuine connections.


directed by Chris and Paul Weitz with Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, Toni Colette, and Rachel Weisz opens May 17 at Majestic Bay, Meridian, Oak Tree, and others YOU GET THE IRONY to About a Boy's title almost right away. Though one narrator is 38 years old and the other 12, it soon emerges that older Will (Hugh Grant) is really the boy in question. Emotionally arrested though fabulously equipped, this independently wealthy Londoner relishes his cocoon of suspended adolescence. He's got the flat, the stereo, the hair, the Audi TT quattro—the whole ripped-from-the-pages-of-FHM laddie lifestyle, in fact. By contrast, the competing voice of Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) describes nothing about youth worth preserving. His early-adolescent life is pure hell: mocked at school; coddled by his suicidal, vegetarian, hippie-freak mother (Toni Colette); too dorky, even, to successfully complete a high five. Marcus and Will meet as the predatory bachelor takes to cruising single-parent support groups in search of desperate hotties (rather like the Edward Norton character in Fight Club), eventually stumbling upon the mother and son. It's hardly love at first sight. Will is initially taken aback when Marcus begins dropping by after school to watch game shows on his telly; yet naturally the two begin to bond. You see, Will needs to grow up, while Marcus needs a father figure. In case you missed those two extremely subtle points, don't worry—they're hammered home incessantly by co-directors Chris and Paul Weitz, who previously helped write Antz (good) and co-directed American Pie (bad). Some may protest the way these crass meddling Americans manhandle the beloved English source novel by Nick Hornby. As with the 2000 adaptation of his High Fidelity, the filmmakers clearly mean well, but their good intentions oversweeten the tale of a selfish lout who inevitably realizes he's a selfish lout. "I was the star of The Will Show, and The Will Show wasn't an ensemble drama," says our hero, whom Grant renders in an enjoyably furtive, vain, commitment-phobic, bloke-ish way. Freed of his Oxbridge upper-class straitjacket, he suggests the sort of fun, amoral rogue he played in Small Time Crooks. As a result, however, while rooting for Will to bed the latest single mom (Rachel Weisz), you're not all that keen for Marcus to reform the rake. Sure, the poor kid deserves a fashion makeover, and not to be bullied at school, and to have at least one reliable adult friend in his rather miserable life, but must Will's new emotional sincerity come at the expense of his shagging and shopping? You can watch sitcoms for those kind of lessons. And, after Boy, you feel you just did. bmiller@seattleweekly.com

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