ninth symphony films - movie reviews

ABOUT A BOY (2002)

DIRECTOR  -  the weitz bros.

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  comedy

LENGTH  -  101 minutes

RELEASED  -  17 may 2002

DISTRIBUTOR  -  universal pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  about a boy

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $11,000,000
about a boy - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from about a boy at

buy the dvd from about a boy at

based on nick hornby's best-selling novel, about a boy is the story of a cynical, immature young man who is taught how to act like a grown-up by a little boy.

george clooney was offered and turned down the lead role of will freeman.


picture from about a boy

picture from about a boy

picture from about a boy


three out of four possible stars

The characters in this film must deal with quite a few emotional problems between the lot of them, but nowhere will a viewer see that all too common self-deprecating English humor that has come to characterize all recent british film imports. About A Boy is about real human relationships against the backdrop of regular present day living. One doesn't have to deal with the utterly depressing side of English life where not a drop of hope exists for a depressing set of characters.

When the small English film, The Full Monty, became a surprise hit after it jumped across the pond to American theaters, U.S. shores soon became inundated with that heart-warming, yet depressing humor. It worked well for a while, particularly in The Full Monty, but some moviegoers doubtlessly began to wonder why nearly the entire English population is so thoroughly depressed all the time. Though About A Boy deals with some heavy topics like severe depression and suicide, the filmmakers had the sense here not to overload the audience with a situation not too far removed from hell. It is easier to relate to this set of characters, as their problems resemble those of so many normal people.

Another good decision the filmmakers made here was in the casting of Hugh Grant. Grant has shown himself capable of assuming many different roles, and in About A Boy, he stretches his acting legs yet again. This film is one of the first he's ever made that he has shown a rather large amount of emotion on the screen. He often allows his voice to do the work for him in his performances. Most of the sentiment in his characters has been conveyed through the modulations of his speech. But this film is a departure from the usual Hugh Grant we all know and love. About A Boy contains quite a few scenes where Grant gets himself worked up about something that's occurring in his character's life, and it really brings a lot of energy to the film. And adding the strong performance opposite his, by Toni Collette, viewers are treated to several scenes, which encompass a wide amount of the human emotional scale.

But the entire film isn't so serious as some of the trailers would have the audience believe. The movie has quite a lot of humor in it. And it pops up in many of the most somber scenes. The fact that humor has been injected into just about every area of the movie, allows the power of those sequences to become much more effective. And in balancing all that drama with a bit of laughs, the meaning of the film becomes quite easy to capture. The premise of this film: young boy teaching a grown man how to grow up, might be regarded as too simplistic, or unoriginal, but somehow, the combination of fine performances and a better than average script work to create a film whose message is welcome, rather than obnoxious. And casting a young boy in a major lead role opposite a cast full of grown-ups is nothing short of dangerous.

But owing mostly to Nicholas Hoult's dramatic abilities as an actor, the twelve or so year-old kid is able to hold his own against the considerable dramatic force of Grant and Collette. Which might be due more to a fortunate amount of casting, than anything. Hoult's performance never verges into the annoying, as do the deliveries so many young child actors. Everything that comes out of his mouth is much more interesting than the usual adolescent fare. Even though the dialogue this kid says was written by a bunch of adults, Nicholas still carries it off quite well. And yet the dialogue isn't so sophisticated that it sounds ludicrous coming out of a teenager's mouth. Nicholas is a smart, yet not genius type kid, and it should not be hard for adults to sympathize with his problems.

It is safe to say that some of this movie's success, if not a lot of it, is due to the author of the book this film was based on. Nick Hornby, who also penned the novel from High Fidelity has created a story that translated unusually well to the screen. This film is so much smarter than just about everything else currently in release. And as for the movies tossed out by hollywood so far in 2002, About A Boy seems to be head and shoulders above the rest. The film begins with a good does of that classic British humor, which has the tendency to come off as something smarter than the comedies currently being produced in America. It is probably the advantage the British have in not having ten thousand theaters in their country, that allows them to focus a bit more in the intelligence of the film, rather than just the visceral humor of it all to get additional butts in the seats.

And speaking of humor, the brothers who directed this film, Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz, have shown that they are capable of handling a smarter movie than Down to Earth, and more sophisticated humor than American Pie. About A Boy is a step in a more intelligent direction for these two directors. Though it is interesting that they had to retreat across the Atlantic to create a smart film. While in America, the Weitz brothers have had mixed commercial and critical success (in their directing), but the moment they took themselves off American shores, the quality of their product rose significantly. One can only hope that their talents can be lured back across the Atlantic to create a film in America that will engage the audience in a few more hours of intelligent humor.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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