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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, Hebrew, Czech, Hungarian, Arabic, Turkish, Romanian
  Extras
  • 9 Deleted scenes
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - Directors Chris & Paul Weitz
  • Music video - Silent Sigh & Something to Talk About - Badly Drawn Boy
  • DVD-ROM features
  • Interviews
  • Documentaries - The Making of About a Boy

About a Boy

Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 97 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Author Nick Hornby has a pretty good track record when it comes to having his works made cinematic, especially considering he’s only released four thus far. The little-seen Fever Pitch was quickly snapped up, the wonderful John Cusack-starring High Fidelity was one of his, and so is About a Boy - and the score card well and truly reads three for three. After reading his latest, How to Be Good, however, well let’s just say if it’s made into a movie that scorecard may read three for four. Still, well aware that this isn’t actually a forum for literature reviews, let’s move on, shall we?

About a Boy starts off centred around Will (Hugh Grant), a bloke in his late-30s who’s single, does nothing all day – not a blessed thing - and is fiercely proud of it. He divides his days up into half hour units – three for lunch, four for the hairdresser etc – and needn’t work due to a little Christmas song his father wrote many years ago, Santa’s Super Sleigh, the royalties from which keep him safely entrenched in bachelor pad, pampering and gadgets. Regardless of what Jon Bon Jovi may have said – “No man is an island” (yes, I know...) he is quite happy in his life...

"I am an island. I am bloody Ibiza!"

Ah, but no self respecting guy in his 30s can live life without the odd shag or two. Being somewhat adverse to anything that has the potential for a relationship, Will stumbles across a cunning plan – dating single mothers, his thinking being that they will be less willing to get involved and easier to get rid of. It’s after getting involved with one such Mum, however, that he crosses paths with young Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), the offspring of his latest conquest’s friend, Fiona (Toni Collette). Seemingly going for a Lene Lovich goes wino look, Fiona is quite the hippie. Unfortunately this has rubbed off on Marcus, so with his alternative outlook on things, ‘interesting’ threads and bowl-cut hairdo he’s a prime target for school bullying.

After Fiona attempts suicide, Will gets inextricably caught up in things – resulting in Marcus almost adopting him – dropping by unannounced after school each day to watch telly. Despite his protestations it seems Will can’t help but take a shine to him – those dreaded real feelings - which he finds surprising, after all, he doesn’t even want to shag his Mum! Instead, while he becomes occupied with Rachel (Rachel Weisz), he continues to spend time with Marcus, and the core of the film is this relationship, in which they help each other to grow up and deal with life in their own distinct ways.

If you do a double take on hearing that the directors and co-scriptwriters of About a Boy were Paul and Chris Weitz of American Pie infamy, then it isn’t particularly surprising, there’s hardly much in the way of connection between the two films. However, in going from such a stylishly executed, but unabashedly crass effort to one of such refinement and grace they have shown that they are obviously capable of most anything they put their minds to – as About a Boy is a joy to behold from its opening seconds until the final credits scroll off the screen. Under their direction Hugh Grant isn’t a foppish drip you just want to either mother or slap about the chops, he actually manages to come across as being likeable despite all his self-obsession. Combine this bravura performance with that of Nicholas Hoult, one which is so assured that you’d swear if not for his young age he’d been doing it for years, and Toni Collette’s permanent seeming ease of brilliance and you’re looking at what is quite simply a wonderfully entertaining film. It may not be the manliest flick out there – in fact I’m sure some may even currently have their “chick flick” alarms going spare - but if you’re a bloke and you get nothing from About a Boy then I have nothing but pity for you.

  Video
Contract

Given fabulous room to roam with a 2.35:1 ratio that’s also anamorphically enhanced, About a Boy has been blessed with a fabulous transfer. Colour is superb, especially for something set in the drabness of London, exhibiting no hints of over-saturation and delivering realistic skin tones. Blacks are perfectly black, whilst shadow detail is everything we could ask for – as is general detail. With its recent vintage it’s fair to expect a perfectly clean print, and this is what we get. There’s a layer change late in the film, you’d be hard pressed not to notice it; however it isn’t as insidious as most.

  Audio
Contract

The single audio track supplied is in Dolby Digital 5.1. This isn’t the sort of film to deliver a massively exhilarating surround experience, yet there’s still much to be impressed by. The subwoofwoof jumps to attention in support of many of the beefier music tracks, such as U2’s Zoo Station, and often emits a satisfying thrum when Will’s Audi TT (yum!) hits the screen. General surround work is subtle and effective, without that showiness that makes such things sound somehow wrong, and synch is absolutely spot-on.

The majority of the soundtrack comes from the “band” Badly Drawn Boy – which is actually just one man, Damon Gough. His generally acoustic tracks add to proceedings in a beautiful manner which is hard to describe precisely, conjuring up a melancholy yet somehow inspiring mood more often than not with such tracks as Silent Sigh. There are also a few other ditties throughout, ranging from the aforementioned U2 to Mystikal, oh, and let us not forget the ol’ Santa’s Super Sleigh...

  Extras
Contract

Pleasingly, all the bonuses from the UK release have made it to our retail version of About a Boy. Some effort really could have been made to jazz up the boring, static menus though...

Spotlight on Location - The Making of About a Boy: Fairly brief at 10:56, this full frame inclusion stuffs interviews with author Nick Hornby, the directors and all the principal cast into its short running time. The main thrust seems to be how horrified everybody involved was at the thought of those behind American Pie helming this project, but in the end how well it worked out. With its brevity it doesn’t have a chance to become to fluffy, which is a Good Thing.

Commentary: Directors/co-writers Chris and Paul Weitz take the mike for this entertaining commentary. Stuffed with interesting, but more frivolous observations on bits you may have missed, on-set shenanigans etc, it is balanced well with much in the way of candid windows into the filmmaking process a la Weitz, and is well worth a sit through for any fan of the film. In what should be done with all commentaries, subtitles are provided.

Deleted Scenes: Nine deletions, in 2.35:1 un-enhanced somewhat Fuzzyvision, these are available with or without a commentary from the Weitz brothers. Some are entire deletions, some extended scenes, and whilst all have something to offer, the explanations as to why they were cut or shortened do make sense 99% of the time.

Music Videos: Now this is a cool bonus! The two official promo clips for Badly Drawn Boy songs off the soundtrack – the robot meets duck whimsy of Silent Sigh (5:05 – DD2.0, 1.78:1 un-enhanced) and the madness of a malicious mallard in Something to Talk About (3:50 – DD2.0, 2.35:1, un-enhanced)

Interview with Badly Drawn Boy - Born in the UK: Anybody interested in the musical side of About a Boy should lap this up, a 20:55 piece nabbed from MTV UK. A one on one interview with the beanie-clad Badly Drawn one himself, Damon Gough, this is a remarkably frank affair which covers everything from influences to recording the soundtrack, winning the Mercury Music Prize (for his debut album, The Hour of the Bewilderbeast) to the creation of the forthcoming at the time new long-player Have You Fed the Fish?. It’s all interspersed with snippets of promo clips, including the wonderful Joan Collins-starring Pissing... sorry, “Spittingin the Wind.

Trailers: The supposed international theatrical trailer for About a Boy (1:35) is here in a ratio of 1.85:1 (un-enhanced) – although I must say that I’ve never seen a “theatrical trailer” before which ends with an announcement that the title is “yours to own on video or DVD”. Ahem. Also included are a teaser for the rather droll looking Rowan Atkinson flick Johnny English and a longer, full trailer for the intriguing looking The Guru.

DVD-ROM Features: Just some links to stuff on the Universal website.

  Overall  
Contract

Face it, with the threads of story outlined above this could have been unadulterated mush of the highest order – but it isn’t. If you missed it in the cinema then don’t be so dumb again – About a Boy is easily one of the most entertaining, engrossing, real and, in the end, happy films of 2002.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=2260
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      And I quote...
    "A joy to behold from its opening seconds until the final credits scroll off the screen..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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