It’s been thirteen years since Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult tugged at our heartstrings in the movie, About a Boy.
Based on the book by Nick Hornby, this warm and funny movie is now a television series -that’s a long time in between male-bonding. In moving to the small screen there have been a number of changes without entirely losing the spirit of the story.
Will Freeman is now played by David Walton, as an unemployed songwriter living in San Francisco instead of London. But a Brit link is retained with Minnie Driver cast as neighbour and single parent Fiona (a role originally portrayed by Toni Collette). Son Marcus is performed by Benjamin Stockham.
Will is still a wolf in Romeo’s clothing, pursuing single women with abandon. When he spies an attractive cellist he embellishes his personal life with a lie about a son he doesn’t have, in the hope of impressing her. But when she sees Marcus in his home, he is forced to expand the lie or lose the girl. Marcus, who lacks a male figure in his life, plays along but corners Will to spend some ‘man-man’ time with him.
Meanwhile neighbour (and vegan) Fiona is at odds with Will’s loose living and meat-eating ways, whilst embarking on her new life in San Fran.
Much of the plot of the film, in which Marcus is destined to embarrass himself singing at a school concert, comprises the plot of the second episode. But in addition to making the central characters neighbours, the TV series by-passes the darker elements of the film in which Fiona had suicidal tendencies.
Yet the core relationship of child and man-child still works, thanks to the casting of the rather likeable David Walton (Cracking Up, Perfect Couples) and the skill of the young Benjamin Stockham. I doubt many of the audience will recall 1969’s The Courtship of Eddie’s Father with Bill Bixby, but it was essentially the same relationship of adult / child friends, albeit in a different plot.
Walton fits this role very well, with a touch of the Jim Carreys about him, while Driver is best when not given overt scenes that are sometimes contrived. Both also juggle some unresolved sexual tension despite an 8 year age difference. Benjamin Stockham is adept in his juvenile role.
About a Boy sticks to a safe path with some success. It may not hold fast to the same bittersweet tone as the feature film, but it works on its own merits nevertheless.
Monday, June 1 at 7.30pm on FOX8.