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Reviewed January 30th, 2003 by Brian White


About A Boy, which failed to make a huge splash in North American Theaters last summer, is a critic's darling. The film was also a huge hit in England. Currently, it is on several top-ten lists for 2002, and Hugh Grant's performance in particular is earning rave reviews. Here is the best example of Hugh Grant just being himself. With the proper vehicle, he is able to shine. He is witty, charming, and very entertaining. He is also quite good in more dramatic scenes, though is character is rarely burdened by these.

The movie is great. It is mostly funny, sometimes touching, and it makes you feel good all over. It is shot very well, and it has a cool soundtrack. It should have done better at the box office.

About a Boy is structured similarly to the best British comedies. The humor is always in the shadow, or in the face of impending tragedy. While the movie is primarily funny, there are some very real dramas playing out as well. Personal need leads to situations that create comedy, such as in another British Comedy, the Full Monty. That movie is hilarious, because it lets off the steam of the mostly depressing situation of the characters.

In About a Boy, Grant plays Will, the textbook bachelor. He is very happy because he has it all. Will lives off of the royalties of a novelty Christmas song that his father wrote in the fifties. He proudly does “nothing.” He has all the best toys: an Audi TT, that cool Mac G4 Cube, stereos, the right clothes, etc. He dates beautiful women and doesn't become involved. He has dedicated his life to the “Will Show,” of which he is the sole star.

Will discovers that single mothers make good dates, and starts attending a support group for single parents to meet women. It is through this activity that he meets Marcus, the son of one of the single mothers.

Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) is the anti-Will. Nothing is going his way. He is a 12-year old misfit, who doesn't fit in at school, and is unhappy because his mother suffers from depression. Marcus basically forces himself on the reluctant Will. He shows up uninvited at Will’s pad every day, and they watch television together.

One of the biggest shocks in this flick is the fact that it is directed by Chris and Paul Weitz, who brought us the American Pie movies. What the hell? After watching the film, you're certainly shocked to hear American accents on the commentary track, because this is the perfect British comedy, a la Bridget Jones. Perhaps the Weitz brothers weren't given much freedom by the producers, or perhaps they are really this talented. Certainly the commentary suggests that they made great efforts to create an interesting and individual style for the film. The match-shot edits and wipes are really cool.

How does the disc look? Great. Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic, which is rare for a comedy, the transfer is very detailed and colorful. This is a very well shot film, for a comedy. All in all, this is a great looking disc. I must add that I could not rent this movie from Blockbuster. Despite having 100 copies of the film, they were all Full Frame! Why are they trying to make us stupid?

For audio, you get a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that is quite active with music. Because it is a British comedy, there is plenty of conversation, so the mix is mostly toward the front, other than for music. It does what it sets out to do quite well.

For extras, you have the commentary that I mentioned earlier. The brothers Weitz speak at length about sets, locations, and techniques. Very interesting stuff. There are also some interesting anecdotes about performances. A featurette on the music of Badly Drawn Boy, who provided music, is also included. Unfortunately, the hilarious video that was shot for the single from the film isn't included. This is a crime, because the video builds on scenes from the film to great effect. And what is this English to English dictionary? Do you Americans really have to be told what a “flat” is? Do you not know what “Bugger off” means? A behind-the-scenes featurette is also included.


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