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Video of the Week: Grant in ''About a Boy''

By STEVE SAILER, UPI National Correspondent   |   Jan. 13, 2003 at 11:51 AM   |   Comments

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Timed to generate publicity for Hugh Grant's bid for a Best Actor Oscar nomination, the Anglo-American comedy "About a Boy" is coming out on video on Tuesday ($26.98 list on DVD and rental-only on VHS).

In North American theaters last spring, on a modest budget of $27 million it earned a decent $41 million and a fine $85 million overseas. (For the typical Hollywood movie, North American is about equal to overseas revenue.)

Hugh Grant is wrinkling before our very eyes. As has happened to numerous Englishmen before him, such as the crumpled poet W.H. Auden, the 41-year-old Grant is rapidly turning from beautiful schoolboy into Chinese Fighting Dog.

Yet, Grant is the last actor on earth who should get numbing Botox injections. Nobody delivers more facial expressions for your movie-going dollar than Grant, and all his new lines and grooves just add texture to his amazing instrument.

Grant has wisely stopped playing the male ingénue characters that made women want to cuddle him and men want to punch him. As in last year's "Bridget Jones Diary," he plays a cad. And nobody does it better.

Grant certainly deserves an Oscar nomination. But, because the Oscars exist primarily to make movie people feel better about their industry and themselves, the Academy tends to nominate movies making the usual important statements about this world in which we live yada, yada, yada, thus shortchanging the kind of movies Hollywood actually does best: action, fantasy and comedy. So, don't be surprised if Grant is passed over for, say, Jack Nicholson showing how dull he can be in "About Schmidt."

"About a Boy" is based on the bestseller by Nick Hornby (whose "High Fidelity" was brought to the screen less successfully by John Cusack, who botched the voice-overs that Grant nails).

Grant's character is Bertie Wooster's evil twin -- a selfish and sexy layabout, with no Jeeves, no job, no kids and no long-term relationships. He has a chrome-and-glass London bachelor flat, a wide-screen TV, one of those silly little Audi TT sports cars that look like they are made by Fisher-Price and frequent appointments at the salon to have his hair carefully disheveled. They are all paid for by royalty checks from his songwriter father's 1958 novelty tune "Santa's Super Sleigh." His life has no meaning and he likes it that way.

In an attempt to pick up emotionally vulnerable single mums, Grant infiltrates the support group Single Parents Alone Together. Challenged, he concocts a heart-breaking story about his ex-wife running off with his best friend and leaving him with an adorable toddler to raise alone.

All goes according to scam, until on his first date with the prettiest member of SPAT, he gets stuck taking her friend's 12-year-old boy (Nicholas Hoult) along with them. When they get home, the boy's depressive mother has attempted suicide. As they rush to the hospital, Grant narrates, "It was horrible, horrible ... but the driving fast behind the ambulance was fantastic!"

Afterward, the boy begins a campaign to adopt Grant as his de facto dad. The rest is semi-predictable, but mildly touching.

It was directed and co-written by the Weitz brothers ("American Pie") -- yet another brother act. Somebody should make a movie about a screenwriter who can't get hired in Hollywood until he makes up a fictional brother for himself. I'd write it myself, except I don't have a brother ... Hey, that gives me an idea ...

Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some thematic elements.

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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