I so wanted to be able to reduce About a Boy to One Man and a Baby or ‘Big Daddy’ Meets ‘Notting Hill.’ I was so prepared to whip off a snark-laden diatribe against Hugh Grant’s Annoying Tics Find True Love. But I can’t. Cuz this is an actual grownup-type movie about figuring out that relationships with real people are preferable to relationships with expensive home electronics, one that avoids dipping into painful cliché along the way.
Yes, it’s basically High Fidelity all over again — hardly surprising, as both films were based on novels by Nick Hornby, whose books are found under the Manchild Discovers The True Meaning Of Blah Blah Blah banner at Barnes & Noble — but High Fidelity was a damn good story, too, told with charm, as this one is.
Will Freeman (Grant: Bridget Jones’s Diary) — get it, “free man”? — is a smug, arrogant bachelor, one who spins elaborate lies if it’ll help him get laid, one who’s perfectly happy in his sleek, well-appointed aloneness. When dorky 12-year-old Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) barges his way into Will’s life, desperate for adult male attention not only for himself but for his sad, single, hippie mom (Toni Collette: Shaft), Will puts up as much resistance as he can muster, until he discovers that he no longer wants to resist the lure of friends, of friends as family.
Warm fuzzies are deployed along the way, sure, but it turns out that Grant, once he finally shucked his irritating and not at all adorable nervous mannerisms, is quite a fine and ingratiating actor. Who knew?