A confirmed bachelor struggles to maintain a life of no commitments, no emotional attachments after a lonely boy adopts him as a surrogate dad.
You raise valid points.
First, of all, the movie was an adaptation of a popular book. So the premise was “pre-sold”, tested and proven to be marketable in another medium — an advantage that spec scripts don’t have.
And you are correct: the stakes are low for the protagonist; he’s quite content to be a confirmed bachelor. That’s his status quo.
What upsets his status quo is the lonely boy. The boy is the character with serious stakes; he stands to gain or lose a lot. The inciting incident for his subplot is his depressed mother attempting suicide after being divorced by his father.
So if the boy were tagged as the protagonist in the story then the logline might be “After his depressed , divorced mother attempts suicide, a lonely boy plots to get a confirmed bachelor to be his surrogate dad.” (22 words)
And why not, given that the title of the film is “About a Boy” not “About a Bacherlor”?
Well, for one thing the story is told primarily, though not exclusively, from the bachelor’s pov. He is the lead off and primary narrator. The boy has his share of (V.O.) narration, too, but on balance not as much as the bachelor. And the bachelor gets the last word in terms of the (V.O.) narration.
Further, though the boy has more at stake, the bachelor has the bigger character arc; he is the character tasked with resolving the subjective issue, the one who has to undergo more change for the story to have a “all’s well that ends well” denouement. In comparison, the boy is the catalyst character for change. (He undergoes a change of fortune, but not a change of character.)
Finally, a primary job of a logline (and script) is to serve as actor bait, to attract a bankable actor, someone who can attract the money to get the movie movie. As the late, great screenwriter William Goldman said, “Stars get movies made.” And at that time Hugh Grant was a major star; he had a proven track record. IOW: he was a bankable, actor. Whoever would be cast in the role of a 12 year boy would not be. Further, it is not likely that a major actor such as Hugh Grant would be attracted to a project where he only plays a supporting role to a boy.
So for me that last reason is the trump card, the consideration that supersedes all others in determining how to frame the logline. And it also happens to be an accurate representation of the plot.
What’s crazy is this strikes me as a logline that doesn’t understand stakes.
What happens if he doesn’t succeed in his attempts to live a life of no commitments or emotional attachments? Right now this seems extremely low-stakes b/c the downside is that he becomes more human and emotionally involved–which seems like a good thing. It’s just funny that a produced film has such a weak logline–kind of misleads aspiring writers in their attempts to write the perfect logline to describe their screenplay.