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Friday, 26 April, 2002, 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK
Boy lacks maturity
Will and Marcus
Will and Marcus bond through the medium of television
test hello test
Darren Waters
BBC News Online
line

The good news is that American Pie directors Paul and Chris Weitz have not turned Nick Hornby's novel into an orgy of American adolescent hijinx, as some might have feared.

The bad news is that the movie has failed to bring out the best of Hornby's witty, poignant and intelligent novel.

Hugh Grant, continuing to pick roles offering slightly more challenges, plays Will Freeman, a rich, serial monogamist who lives off the royalties of a Christmas song his father wrote.

He gives one of his best performances for years and has almost cast off the typecast of the bumbling, middle class idiot he played to such good effect in Four Weddings.

Romantic comedies

Will's world is one of one-night stands and filling his empty days into bite-sized chunks - a haircut, shopping, watching Countdown, listening to music, taking a bath.

Rachel Weisz
Rachel Weisz: Woefully underused
In the world of romantic comedies this is a man who needs to sit down and watch When Harry Met Sally - the director's cut.

He lacks focus, drive, a centre to his life. And so, enters the boy of the title.

Marcus is a 12-year-old lacking the social skills expected of most primates.

His protective mother - played by Toni Collette - bringing him up alone, has moulded him into her own image.

Unsurprisingly the young boy finds it hard to make friends and avoid bullies when he is acting and dressing like a 40-something single mother.

Marcus and Will were made for each other. Will, who has never had to grow up emotionally, teaches Marcus how to be a trendy, conformist young boy, while Marcus, coping with the attempted suicide of his mother, teaches Will how to be an adult in a confusing world.

Alarming

It is a variation of the "children can teach us so much" idea and there is plenty of humour in the exchanges between Grant and the young actor Nicholas Hoult.

About A Boy
Marcus is bullied
Unfortunately, the script feels short of polish - an alarming number of jokes fall flat and some of the dialogue feels as though it has been lifted wholesale from the book.

But there are three bigger problems with the film.

The joint voiceover, given by Marcus and Will throughout the film, provides light moments at best, but at worst it feels like a clumsy attempt to convey information to the audience without making the effort to do it visually.

The second problem is that the young actor Nicholas Hoult is just not up to the task of playing the second most important character in the film.

Large flaw

His acting is stilted and when you consider how good young performers such as Alakina Mann and James Bentley were in The Others, then this is just poor casting.

Nicholas Hoult and Toni Collette in About A Boy
Marcus is shaped by his mother
The final large flaw is that the love interest played by Rachel Weisz enters the film at such a late stage it feels almost like an afterthought.

Weisz is so woefully underused in the film that the whole point of her being in the film is undermined.

With all these flaws, one might expect to hate the movie.

Not at all. It is well-made and genuinely funny in places but lacks the wit of Four Weddings or the charm of Notting Hill.

About A Boy opens on 26 April.

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About A Boy
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About A Boy
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'It's so neat, there's no rough edges at all'
Radio 4's Front Row on About A Boy
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