Directed by Chris and Paul Weitz, Starring Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz and Victoria Smurfit.

A haircut could be the best thing to happen to Hugh Grant's career since Liz Hurley wore that dress all those years ago. Without his trademark fop fringe to hide behind, Grant is forced to come out and act against type and in 'About A Boy' the result is a performance as spiky and ruffled as the new do suggests.

Here he's Will, a 38-year-old who has never worked a day in his life and won't have to, thanks to the royalties he picks up from his father's Christmas song. Bouncing from one conquest to another, Will convinces himself that he's having the best time, but somehow, something just doesn't sit right. Not that the something deters from his latest plan - seeking out opportunities and then quick getaways through a single parents' group. But while inventing a toddler gets him closer to Susie (Smurfit), he then gets sucked into the life of her suicidal pal Fiona (Collette) and Fiona's 12-year-old oddball son Marcus (Hoult).

While the brothers Weitz's claim to fame thus far has been the therapeutic power of pastry and the genius of Stifler in 'American Pie', 'About A Boy' finds them coming of age, adapting Nick Hornby's acclaimed novel and moving confidently into the realms of adult comedy. It's darker and asks bigger questions than Grant's previous vehicles, but watching it you can't help feel that the brothers should've added a little more charcoal to the proceedings. Grant certainly seemed up for it, revelling in the role of a tosser, he gives his deepest and most memorable performance to date.

However, this being the England that Americans seems convinced England is, he's not let rip too often, and the result is a warm comedy with dashes of wicked. The awwww factor goes into overdrive once Grant and Hoult figure out that each has something to offer the other, but while the youngster is the type of kid who people will either fall for or run from, the two of them make a fine double act. Unfortunately the supporting cast just don't grow as much as the two boys. Collette's Fiona seems little more than a left-over from the 'Fast Show' while Weisz, as Grant's dream girl, has very little to do except look enchanted or wounded.

But even if some characters lack depth, there are plenty of laughs that will go right down to your belly and the Weitz's gloss over the inadequacies by allowing Grant to try to conquer the world idiot market in most of the scenes. It's well-timed, it'll never bore you and the film's close is comic humiliation par excellence. And even if you can't stand Grant, this film is very hard not to like. He really does have a lot to thank the barber for.

Harry Guerin