About a Boy (2002)

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Released 11-Feb-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Spotlight On Location: The Making Of About A Boy
Audio Commentary-Chris Weitz (Co-Director) & Paul Weitz (Co-Director)
Deleted Scenes-+/- directors' commentary
Music Video-Silent Sigh-Badly Drawn Boy
Music Video-Something To Talk About-Badly Drawn Boy
Featurette-Born In The UK-Interview with Badly Drawn Boy
DVD-ROM Extras
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Johnny English; The Guru
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 97:03
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (75:03) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Chris Weitz
Paul Weitz
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Hugh Grant
Nicholas Hoult
Toni Collette
Rachel Weisz
Isabel Brook
Victoria Smurfit
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Badly Drawn Boy


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Hungarian
Arabic
Czech
Greek
Turkish
Romanian
English Audio Commentary
Hungarian Audio Commentary
Arabic Audio Commentary
Czech Audio Commentary
Greek Audio Commentary
Turkish Audio Commentary
Romanian Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    About A Boy is a comedy-drama based on a popular novel by Nick Hornby, author of High Fidelity, and directed by the Weitz brothers, who also brought us American Pie. However, the film is not like either of those two films.

    Will (High Grant) is a thirty-something year old man who has it all. Or so he thinks. He has lots of cool toys, including a silver Audi TT, and doesn't have to work because he is living off the royalties from a single hit song his father wrote in the late fifties ("Santa's Super Sleigh") which gets played every Christmas.

    Will believes he is the counter-example to the phrase "no man is an island." (from a poem - Meditation XVII - by John Donne, although Will thinks it's by Jon Bon Jovi). He believes that surrounded by all his toys, he is an island. He spends his days shopping, getting his hair cut, watching TV, and trying to pick up women, but doesn't want to be committed to them.

    Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), on the other hand, is a twelve-year old boy who is probably the exact opposite of Will. He is emotionally dependent on his mother Fiona (Toni Collette), a single mother suffering from depression. As a result, Marcus has some strange behaviours (including singing on odd occasions) that makes him a social outcast amongst his schoolmates.

    One day Will hits upon a bright idea: hitting on single mothers, He joins a group called SPAT (Single Parents Alone Together), pretending that he has a son called Ned, and meets an attractive single mother called Suzie (Victoria Smurfit). He goes out on a date with Suzie, and Marcus comes along. After a hilarious incident at the park featuring a duck and an extremely hard loaf of bread, Marcus returns home to find out that Fiona has tried to commit suicide.

    Devastated, Marcus decides the solution is to get Will to marry his mother so that he will never be alone. He starts hassling Will and eventually a relationship of sorts develops between Will and Marcus.

    I won't spoil the rest of the film, but let's just say that the film is about both Will and Marcus helping each other to grow up. It's funny, ironic, touching and sad all at the same time.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This is an excellent 16x9 enhanced widescreen transfer in the intended aspect ratio of 2.35:1, based on a Super 35 film print.

    Detail levels are quite good, though not exceptional, and colour saturation is pretty well spot on. I say this, even though there are lots of scenes in this film that look rather greyish, but I think that's natural as London is not usually bright and sunny, and the directors' commentary confirms that many of the scenes were shot during rainy or overcast skies.

    The film print looked quite clean, and I did not notice any objectionable instances of grain.

    There is a moderate amount of ringing from edge enhancement present. Compression artefacts are mainly restricted to low to moderate amounts of Gibb's effect ringing.

    We get a selection of English as well as (mainly Eastern European) subtitle tracks. The English subtitle track is enhanced for the Hearing Impaired, for it features dialogue attribution, description of Foley effects, and even a description of background music (eg. "happy, light, instrumental rock music", "soft guitar music", "light cheerful instrumental music", "sad, soft folk-rock song"). We also get transcriptions of the directors' commentary track into several subtitle languages, which is an unusual bonus.

    This is single sided dual layered disc (RSDL). The layer change occurs at 75:03, and is very well placed for it occurs during a period where the camera pauses on Will sitting on his couch and there is no background music, so it should not be noticeable on most systems.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two audio tracks on this disc: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s), and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded (192Kb/s). I listened to both tracks.

     This is a fairly dialogue focused film, as you might expect. There's also a fair amount of background music, all composed by Damon Gough, also known as Badly Drawn Boy. The original music ranges from whimsical and cute to vaguely pop/folk/rock.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times, and I did not notice any audio synchronization issues.

    Being dialogue-focused, there is not normally a lot going in the surround channels apart from background music ambience, but occasionally I noticed some attempt to position Foley effects to rear channels, such as the rain and thunderstorm around 45:38-45:56.

    The subwoofer was only lightly used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This disc has a very pleasing and comprehensive collection of extras. Most of the extras are subtitled too, which is a plus.

Menu

    The menus are 16x9 enhanced but static.

Featurette - Spotlight On Location: The Making Of About A Boy (10:56)

    This is a promotional featurette that includes interviews with cast and crew, excerpts from the film, and behind the scenes footage. It is presented in full frame and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). Excerpts from the film are presented in 2.35:1 letterboxed (no 16x9 enhancement).

    Interviews include:

    One interesting thing I found out was that the last third of the film deviates from the book and was constructed by the Weitz brothers in conjunction with Hugh Grant. There are also some gentle digs: Hugh Grant accuses the Weitz brothers of producing "lowbrow" comedy in the form of American Pie, and the Weitz brothers in turn call Hugh "withdrawn, and morally suspect." It was also refreshing to see both Rachel Weisz and Toni Collette drop back into their natural accents during the interviews.

Audio Commentary - Chris Weitz (Co-Director) & Paul Weitz (Co-Director)

    This commentary track wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be, even though the Weitz brothers speak nearly continuously throughout the whole film. Maybe it's because the brothers have fairly monotonous speaking voices, or perhaps I just wasn't in the mood. The brothers compare scenes in the film to the book, talk about various locations (eg. Otto's is used for some of the restaurant scenes, Clerkenwell, Smithfield Meat Market, Comptoir Gascon, ...), set descriptions, how certain scenes were shot, etc. There are more gentle digs about Hugh's uncomfortableness with children, and various humorous statements. The brothers are recorded together, and complement each other well. Still, I kept tuning out and watching the film rather than listening to the commentary.

Deleted Scenes-+/- directors' commentary (14:21)

    This is a number of deleted scenes strung together into one title on the disc. You can choose to view them either with or without director's commentary. All scenes are presented in 2.35:1 letterboxed (no 16x9 enhancement) and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    The scenes include:

    I thought some of the scenes really should have been included in the film because they explain some of the characters' actions later in the film. The directors' commentary does not really add a lot to each scene.

Music Video - Something To Talk About - Badly Drawn Boy (3:50)

    This is a cute music video. It opens with Will and Marcus watching Damon Gough (aka Badly Drawn Boy) as a contestant on Countdown. We then flash to Badly Drawn Boy as a young boy, who rides in a car that accidentally kills the companion of a duck ((SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) the same duck that gets killed by Marcus in the film). The duck then haunts Badly Drawn Boy for the rest of its life (including causing Badly Drawn Boy's childhood sweetheart to get killed in a car accident), thus causing Badly Drawn Boy to develop a dislike for ducks. When the duck gets killed Badly Drawn Boy celebrates. The music video is presented in 2.35:1 letterboxed (no 16x9 enhancement) and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

Music Video - Silent Sigh - Badly Drawn Boy (5:05)

    This is another really cute music video featuring an extension of the scene (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) where the duck in the pond gets killed by Marcus throwing a rock hard loaf of bread at it. We get taken to 2000 years in the future. Earth is desolated and in an Ice Age. A spacecraft visits, an alien astronaut steps out and retrieves the carcass of the duck encased in ice. The astronaut then downloads the duck's unhappy memories and alters them to happy ones where the duck lives a long and prosperous life with its companion before ascending to duck heaven. The music video is presented in a mixture of 1.85:1 and 2.35:1 letterboxed (no 16x9 enhancement) and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

Featurette - Born In The UK - Interview with Badly Drawn Boy (20:55)

    This is a fairly lengthy featurette which includes an interview with "Badly Drawn Boy" conducted by Zane Lowe, excerpts from various music videos such as "Once Around The Block", "It Came From The Ground", "Disillusion", "Spitting In The Wind", "Something To Talk About", and "Silent Sigh" (the last two from the film). The video is presented in a mixture of full frame and 1.85:1 letterboxed (no 16x9 enhancement). The audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

DVD-ROM Extras

    This is a single still promoting the DVD-ROM extras on the disc. There doesn't seem to be much, apart from a standard install of InterActual Player 2.0 and a link to a web site.

Theatrical Trailer (1:35)

    This is labelled the "international theatrical trailer" and it is presented in 1.85:1 letterboxed (no 16x9 enhancement) and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). Surprisingly, we get a still promoting the DVD and VHS at the end.

Trailer - Johnny English (0:39); The Guru (2:00)

    The first one is a teaser trailer, the second more like a theatrical trailer. Both are presented in 1.85:1 letterboxed (no 16x9 enhancement) and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 2/4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    Both versions have similar extras, so I will declare this a draw.

Summary

    About A Boy is actually about two boys: a real one and an adult who hasn't really grown up. It is based on a book by Nick Hornby.

    The video transfer quality is excellent.

    The audio transfer quality is good.

    The extras are substantial.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Monday, January 20, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RP82, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE (upgraded)
SpeakersFront and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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