'About a Boy' premiere review: Men, children, and man-children

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Image Credit: Jordin Althaus/NBC

In the pantheon of movies based on television shows, there’s way more bad than good. Actually, now that I think about it, they probably don’t even deserve their own pantheon­—more like a dimly lit janitorial closet or a Burger King bathroom. Sure, there’s some high-quality examples like The Untouchables or The Fugitive, but more often than not you end up with Lost in Space or Land of the Lost. When the content’s flowing in the other direction, from big screen to small, there’s a slightly better hit-to-holy-bananas-what-a-miss ratio, but still for every M*A*S*H or The Odd Couple, there’s a handful of Ferris Buellers.

Showrunner Jason Katims, however, has a pretty snappy track record when it comes to making Movie: The TV Show. He’s responsible for turning films like Friday Night Lights and Parenthood into strong multi-season character dramas. Now, he has taken on About a Boy, the 2002 comedy-drama in which Hugh Grant broke out of his typecast as a lovably awkward wag to play a lovably curmudgeonly wag who befriends a young social misfit and his single mother. This isn’t the first time this has been tried—Patrick Dempsey starred in an attempt to adapt the film to series back in 2003, but it was dropped presumably because of excess levels of McDreaminess. In Katims’ version, which premieres Feb. 22 on NBC after the Olympics, he has replaced London with San Francisco, and Grant with Bent‘s David Walton.

The pilot essentially takes the plot of the film and hits fast-forward: Will, a lovably rakish wag, tries to pick up a woman at a single parents support group despite the fact that the only child living in his Painted Lady is himself. Then the 11-year-old Marcus (Benjamin Stockham) and his high-strung vegan mother (Minnie Driver) move in next door and invade his life. If you’ve seen the movie, you might be better off just skipping the first episode since it’s mainly a retread, but Katims nails its sweetly wry tone—and that of the Nick Hornby source material—and Walton is genuinely engaging as a bro-ier version of Will. Stockham, too, is great as the half-dopey, half-precocious Marcus. Overall, it’s a whole lot of premise-setting and foundation-building, but there’s enough here to be optimistic that this will be one more tick in the Good column of movie/TV synergy. B+

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