I have to admit that when i first saw the trailer for this film, I thought, "Sweet Jesus, this looks a lot like Rushmore!" complete with a dishelved Michael Douglas doing the Bill Murray/Mr. Blume thing and Tobey Maguire as a rambunctious, upstart kid a la Max Fischer. Man, was I wrong. Wonder Boys is the kind of small, oddball little film with a definite, quirky, dark sense of humour and a cast of eccentric characters that are never colourful for the sake of it. Michael Douglas disappears completely into the role of Grady Tripp, a burnt out English professor, who once wrote a much celebrated novel but has since been having a hard time with his follow-up. He just keeps writing and writing with no end in sight (current page count sits around 2100 pages!). the film starts at the beginning of a truly hellish day for Tripp as his wife leaves him, his girlfriend tells him she's pregnant and he almost gets killed by her husband's blind dog. throw in an eccentric writing protege (Tobey Maguire), Tripp's bi-sexual literary agent (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his transvestite date, and you've got quite an interesting mix of characters. in some ways, Douglas' character is a pot-smoking burn-out like the Dude from THE BIG LEBOWSKI. he is content to live outside of society, putt around, write his novel, teaching his classes but when he crosses paths with Maguire's character, he realizes that he's got to change. Douglas is more than up for this role. i'm not a huge fan of the man's work (WALL STREET and THE GAME excepted) but he's perfectly cast in this film. he hits just the right note of world-weary cynicism but with a romantic streak buried underneath. you can tell that he's got the capacity to do something about his miserable lot in life and during the course of the film his character undergoes a fascinating arc. the real stand out of this film, though, is Tobey Maguire. i've only seen him in a few things, here and there and i never really noticed him all that much before (although, he was great in PLEASANTVILLE. everyone in the film keeps harping on what a genius writer Douglas' character is, but it quickly becomes apparent that Maguire's character is the true genius. he writes pages and pages of beautiful prose in minutes. and like any true talent, it just comes pouring out of him effortlessly. Maguire nails that kind of visionary talent perfectly. his character is so different from his peers and you are never sure what makes him tick, until 3/4 of the way through when another side of his intriguing personality is revealed. at first, you think his character is pretty one-dimensional -- the oddball genius -- but Maguire provides all sorts of layers and subtle nuances to his character that are great to watch. it doesn't hurt that Steve Kloves' script is a solid piece of writing. clever, insightful dialogue that tells you volumes about these characters. the dialogue is humourous and offbeat in one scene, touching and thoughtful in the next. Kloves also wisely avoids the usual cliches... ie. the romance between the older man and younger woman. just when you think it's going to go there, the film veers off to something different and better. every character has their moment to really define themselves with the possible exception of Katie Holmes who seems to be sorely underused. which is too bad, really, because the scenes she does have are good. it's nice to see that she can do more than just DAWSON'S CREEK. and lastly, the mood and atmosphere of this movie is so magical. to me, the best films are ones that you lose yourself in completely. the characters and the world they inhabit are so real, so three-dimensional that you can't help but get sucked in. WONDER BOYS does that so well. the attention to detail -- a snowy winter in Pittsburgh -- is beautiful realized. esp. the night time scenes, like one in which Douglas and Maguire talk outside in a backyard while the snow falls gently around them... are so well done, i felt like i was right there. and isn't that what a good film should do? make it able for you to escape for a couple of hours? hard to believe that the guy who made L.A. CONFIDENTIAL did this one. a complete change of pace and mood and... everything. amazing stuff. anyways, i reallly dug WONDER BOYS. it's the first film i've seen this year that has really affected me in a profoundly personal way. a film that as soon as it was over, i wanted to go right back in and watch it again.