Lurking in the smaller theaters of your multiplex is an easily overlooked movie.
Amid the galaxy-spanning tale of a brooding and obnoxious savior who is to bring balance to a mystic energy field, and the spandex-wearing teenager who learns that with great power comes great responsibility, is a small movie that is worth your while.
Hugh Grant gives a Cary Grant-ish turn as Will, the central character in “About a Boy.” Will is so shallow and self-centered that calling him as such would be offensive to shallow and self-centered people. He is a man who disbelieves the “no man is an island” cliché. Will is an island unto himself.
He lives to date beautiful women and buy all the big-boy toys his heart desires. Will’s father had the good fortune of writing a one-hit wonder called “Santa’s Super Sleigh,” but hate is not a strong enough word to describe Will’s distaste for the song. Yet, the song allows Will to tell beautiful women who ask what he does for a living that …he does nothing. He lives off the song’s royalties.
Will’s lack of moral fiber leads him to SPAT to cruise for dates. SPAT translates to Single Parents, Alone Together. He invents an imaginary child and makes a play for a single mother named Suzie. Suzie is a friend of Fiona, a deeply depressed woman. Fiona has a son named Marcus, who believes he needs to be dutiful in order to heal his mother’s depression.
Will gets pulled into the vortex of Marcus’s life when Will takes Marcus home after a date with Suzie. They find Fiona after a suicide attempt, and this encounter begins to change Will’s life. Will discovers that his island paradise is not as great as he thought. It is missing something: other people.
This movie is funny and touching. Will’s character growth alone is worth the price of admission. Hugh Grant is wonderful. He is the loveable rogue who begins to develop into a whole person.
Nicolas Hoult gives a stunning performance as Marcus. He walks through most of the movie as a boy with a target on his back. He is hounded and picked on, but learns how to come out of his self-imposed prison. Will teaches him how to adapt and not be a victim.
“About a Boy” gives us a chance to see a transformation in progress. The nice thing is that the movie does not dumb down the plot like an episode of “Friends.” It takes the risk of not forcing the characters to be something they are incapable of being in the space of a movie. We see real growth and the possibility of change. That is missing in most movies today.
When you show up at your multiplex and find out that the showing of the latest blockbuster is sold out, step up and ask for a ticket to see “About a Boy.” It will be more rewarding than most of what is out there, and you will be glad you bought the ticket.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Burgaw Baptist Church in Burgaw, N.C.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language and some thematic elements
Directors: Chris and Paul Weitz
Writers: Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz (from a Nick Hornby novel)
Cast: Will: Hugh Grant; Marcus: Nicholas Hoult; Rachel: Rachel Weisz; Fiona: Toni Collette.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.