Few movies have made better use of Hugh Grant's shallow charm and amused befuddlement than this funny and well-paced adaptation of Nick Hornby's best-selling second novel, which charts the unlikely friendship between a preteen nerd crossing over into adolescence (Nicholas Hoult) and a thirtysomething hipster hanging on to it for dear life. Like High Fidelity, the film drawn from Hornby's first novel, About a Boy faithfully re-creates the book's comic encounters yet relies on endless and finally irksome narration to communicate its offbeat emotional insights. The screenplay, by Peter Hedges and directors Paul and Chris Weitz, neatly compresses Hornby's story line and updates the action from the early 90s to the present, replacing a key incident—the suicide of rocker Kurt Cobain—with a lighter and more conventional climax. The change is illuminating: with their energy and wit, Hornby's novels may seem tailor-made for the screen, but his gift for rendering characters through their immersion in pop culture proves elusive. With Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz, and Victoria Smurfit. 101 min.
By J.R. Jones