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The year wouldn’t be the same without an English comedy/drama starring upper-class actor Hugh Grant. 2002 didn’t let us down with Nick Hornby’s book adaptation of About A Boy taking the stage. There was a little apprehension amongst fans of Nick Hornby following the butchering of High Fidelity (his previous book). High Fidelity was edited and given an American feel, which upset many of his fans. Thankfully About A Boy was left untouched and was brought to the big screen by the combined talents of Chris and Paul Weitz (widely known for the American Pie movies). Suffice to say About A Boy proved to be a success here in the UK and also more surprisingly in the US.

About A Boy
Will (Hugh Grant) is a hip, thirty-eight year old bachelor who lives in London. He has no job and his life consists of basically just lazing about. Sounds ideal doesn’t it? Fortunately for Will his father wrote a one-hit-wonder song, and ever since he has lived off the royalties from the record. The self centred lifestyle suits Will, even though his friends tease him about it. However, Will’s life is about to change!

After dating a single mum, he quickly realises that lonely mothers are an untapped source as far as dating is concerned. Spotting a potential hot spot he joins a local single mothers club with the aim of picking up some unsuspecting females. Whilst at a weekly meeting Will meets Suzie (Victoria Smurfit), an attractive single mum who has a young child. The pair get on well and arrange to go on a date. There is one major stumbling block to Will’s momentous plan, he is supposed to be a single parent! Deciding to bend the truth a little Will pretends he has a child.

His plans of wooing Suzie on their first date takes a slight nose dive when Suzie invites along her friend’s teenage son, Marcus (Nicholas Hoult). On the surface Marcus appears to be a weird teenager, who is a bit of a loner, but in fact he is very intelligent. Marcus has had a hard childhood. He lives with his mother, who is depressed and is struggling to deal with life. After a frightful experience with Marcus’s mother, Will feels sorry for Marcus and the pair start spending time together. Marcus sees the situation as a perfect opportunity for his mother to date someone (i.e Will), while Will sees it slightly differently. The bachelor sees Marcus as a valuable asset and uses the teenager to date other women. As the unlikely duo spend more time together it becomes apparent that Will’s life is not as perfect as he thought. Spending time with Marcus makes him realise that his shallow life is lacking any real meaning. But is Will determined enough to change?

About A Boy
About A Boy has been described as a male version of Bridget Jones’s Diary and the two films are similar in a lot of ways. However, About A Boy takes a more serious direction and in my opinion is the stronger movie. Hugh Grant can be relied upon to carry movies, but even so his performance here is probably one of his strongest. He plays the character of Will with supreme confidence and also brings the character’s dry sense of humour to the screen perfectly. The onscreen chemistry between Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult is one of the major pluses from this film, and is one of the main reason the films succeeds. About A Boy features all the main ingredients which make up a box office success. Its funny, charming, emotional, well acted and has a riveting storyline. What more could you ask for? About A Boy is one of the best British films of the past few years and should definitely make its way into your DVD collection.  

About A Boy is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The transfer is also anamorphic and as expected is in pristine condition. Colours appear true and vibrant throughout, however the movie has little to test it with. Grain levels are kept to a minimum, which allows the details levels to shine through. Compression artefacts were also nowhere to be seen and there appeared to be no obvious signs of edge enhancements. Visually About A Boy is not a spectacular film, but Universal have produced a transfer which is hard to fault.

About A Boy
European DVD enthusiasts will be disappointed with this release, as Universal have only provided the one soundtrack. That is of course an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track. This track is restricted to mainly the front speakers, with the occasional murmur from the rears during musical moments. Due to the nature of the movie, the restrictions of the surround mix did not dampen my enjoyment of the movie. An all-sing, all-dancing track wouldn’t have made much difference as the film is mostly dialogue driven. Universal have provided a functional track which keeps the audible moments clear throughout. Keeping consistent with the soundtrack you will also find only English subtitles on offer with this release.

First up on the disc is a making of documentary called Spotlight on Location : Making of About a Boy. This documentary runs for just over ten minutes and starts off with Nick Hornby talking about his ideas behind the book. I found it interesting to listen to the author speaking and his sharp humour shone through even in the little snippets we get to see. The documentary also provides input from the directors, who talk about their experiences during filing and certain casting decisions. Lots of documentaries are heavily weighted towards featuring certain cast members, but this one is slight different. We get to hear from various members of the cast. My favourite moment was listening to Hugh Grant talking about his dislike for children. It is obvious that he is not keen working with children, which provides a couple of minutes of humour. Also worth looking out for are the discussions with Nick Hornby and Hugh Grant relating to their reservations about the two directors of the movie. They both needed convincing that the Weiz brothers were the right duo considering that they had previously worked on such movies as American Pie. By the end of the conversation it is apparent that the director’s hard work won over the two doubters This documentary provides a detailed insight into the movie and is without a doubt one of the highlights of the disc.

Also worth taking a peek at are the deleted scenes. There are twelve in total which have a combined running time of over fourteen minutes. Most of the scenes are extensions to existing scenes within the movie, but there are also some new ones. One of my criticisms of the movie is the abrupt ending, so it was nice to see an extended ending which brings the movie to a close greater fluidity. Sometimes deleted scenes can be painful to watch, but thankfully the ones included on this disc are a joy to watch. Each deleted scene is accompanied by commentary with the directors. If you are a fan of commentaries you will also be happy to find that the disc also has a full length commentary with Directors Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz.

About A Boy
Music Videos are next up on the disc. The soundtrack for About A Boy was created by Badly Drawn Boy, who I had never heard of before seeing the movie. His two music videos – Silent Sigh and Something to Talk About are both available to watch. Both songs are heavily featured in the movie and are surprisingly catchy tunes. The next extra is a little puzzling however, as it doesn’t really have much to do with the movie. The extra is called Also Born in the UK – Interview with Badly Drawn Boy (Courtesy of MTV UK). Simply put this is a half an hour interview with the artist, which was produced by MTV. It is quite a cumbersome extra and not really relevant to the movie. If you have no interest in the Badly Drawn Boy then it is advisable to skip over this extra.

The last section is titled Trailers Section. Within this section you will find the About a Boy International Theatrical Trailer, Jonny English Teaser Trailer (Rowan Atkinson’s new movie) and a trailer for the upcoming DVD release of The Guru.  

In my opinion About A Boy is one of the best comedies of last year. Love him or Loathe him Hugh Grant can always be relied upon to entertain and About A Boy is one of his finest performances. The movie is clever and witty, whilst at the same time providing a gritty storyline to keep audiences engrossed. Universal have provided us with a first class release, which is only slightly let down by mediocre extras. Feel good movies come no better than this, About A Boy is a definite recommendation.