A thoroughly pleasant but decidedly un-romantic comedy boasting another witty star turn from Hugh Grant, this Nick Hornby adaptation belongs to the increasingly common subgenre of hybrid British-American comedy-dramas that are easy enough going down, but may leave viewers with a few naggingly unresolved character arcs and motivations. As a funny, involving tale of redemption for a lazy, spoiled lad edging toward middle age, About a Boy succeeds. Hugh Grant is one of the few actors since Cary Grant who can remain likeable even as he's committing near-despicable acts of dishonesty, and directors Chris and Paul Weitz have found a perfect foil for him in the disarmingly guileless Nicholas Hoult. They've also managed to make their first genuinely stylish film, shot with grainy aplomb by Remi Adefarasin (less successful are editor Nick Moore's showy jump cuts and wipe transitions). But their script, written with Peter Hedges, leaves something to be desired in its romantic half. By the time About a Boy reveals the charming but ineffectual love interest Rachel Weisz, audiences may be long past the point of caring if, when, or with whom its cad of a protagonist is going to settle down. It doesn't help that the luminous Toni Collette, though saddled with a frump of a role, walks off with every scene she's in, and has unlimited depth and chemistry with Grant. Though the Weitz brothers have proven that they have heart to spare when it comes to their lovelorn heroes -- American Pie proved as much -- ultimately, they're not as democratic when it comes to some of their supporting characters, and engaging as it is, About a Boy can't help but suffer as a result.
by Michael Hastings review