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Great story, great performances
Rammstein-229 June 2001
Sometimes, movie makers manage to create a world that one cannot resist being pulled into. In this world one lingers for a couple of hours, waiting for the next minute with a smile on one's lips. "Wonder Boys" is one of the best movies of recent years in that it successfully drags the viewer along on it's whimsical and sometimes really strange journey.

The characters are believable despite their alien behaviors - the only normal person around might just be Hannah Green (Holmes), skirting around the main characters like an observing ghost. Douglas is pulling off what must be his best performance ever, portraying a decaying, once-famous addict writer with a severe case of reversed writer's block: he can't finish his novel and he can't stop writing... Tobey Maguire is very well cast with his innocent yet troubled look, and Frances McDormand is just as she always is: fantastic.

I'm very impressed with this film, which took me off-guard. Not many I know went to see it. I'm glad I did.
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Author! Author!
mercury-266 March 2000
I am usually annoyed by films based on novels about novelists. Really, it's like the author couldn't think of anything else to write about. `Write what you know.' That's what the writing instructors tell you. But a novel about a writer makes it seem like writing is all you know. Who, except other writers, would want to read it? The opening scenes of Wonder Boys, however, buried whatever hang-ups I had. This story is less about writing than it is about the tortured souls that produce it.

This film is a departure from anything I've seen before. Really, has there ever been another major studio movie set in Pittsburgh? It's about time. Here's another departure: Wonder Boys triumphs as a character study. How many comedies can claim this? And a great comedy it is. Who can't appreciate the fact that one of the most important characters driving the story is a blind dog that's locked in a car trunk for most of the movie?

Not to be upstaged by said dog, Michael Douglas turns in his best performance since Wall Street. Douglas plays the ultimate tortured soul, Grady Tripp, a much-respected, award-winning, and soon-to-be divorced University of Pittsburgh writing prof, wrestling as many artists do with a novel that refuses to end. One of his students, James Leer (Tobey Maguire in his best performance ever), is trying his hardest to be a poor, struggling artist and is looking to be inspired. James all but cons his way into Grady's life and the scenes between these two crackle with life. James has his own novel he's finished, and Grady's editor, Terry Crabtree (Robert Downey, Jr.), believes he's found a true `wonder boy,' the next big thing. The film then dangles these questions in front of us: How will Grady find a balance between helping James, fulfilling James' expectations of his hero, and dealing with the fact that this kid is On The Verge while he himself is on page 1163 and counting? Always poignant and dazzling, the film's writer never strays from his characters in favor of overdramatization. Many opportunities exist and Mr. Kloves always wisely passes.

Grady's relationship problems are also piling up. The story takes place over the course of one weekend, and Grady is faced with one dilemma after another involving his married girlfriend, Sara (Frances MacDormand), the school's chancellor, his boarder and student Hannah (Katie Holmes, who will shine once she finds that good, meaty starring role), and of course his estranged wife (played by no one at all).

There's a lot to love about Wonder Boys and I assure you I've merely grazed the surface. The real reason I went to see it, though it looked interesting enough from the trailers, was Curtis Hanson. I liked parts of L.A. Confidential enough to see what other tricks he has up his sleeve. I must say that his work here is much more accomplished than Confidential, despite the fact that most critics thought it deserved to beat Titanic a couple of years back. I hope this gives you an idea of just how good I think Wonder Boys is. Unfortunately, this is an early-year, low-budget comedy about scholarly people, and Mr. Hanson will most likely be recognized for the mystery thriller that came before it.

I want to be wrong, so don't miss Wonder Boys.

Grade: A
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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.
dr. gonzo10 May 2000
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.
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keefy-d6 February 2003
Not many people have heard of this film. It's not what the masses want, they yearn for Men In Black II, Legally Blonde, Die Another Day and so on. This minor gem is strange, unconventional, rich and moving. It is a classically written character study with unexpected comic twists and turns from every angle. You feel warmer for having watched this movie, and it is a shame that films like these only occur once or twice a year.

Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas) is a middle-aged professor of English, and is writing his second novel, `The Wonder Boys'. However, this character is not a stereotypical teacher but a fantastically original creation emphasized by Douglas' winning performance. He smokes weed and lives with a student of his (Katie Holmes), he is in the midst of his third divorce and is in love with his married boss, Sara Gaskell (Frances McDormand), and that second novel is forever incomplete, and has been for seven years. One of his pupils is James Leer, played to perfection by Tobey Maguire, who writes amazingly obtuse stories and is obsessed with the death of film stars. James and Grady become partners in crime when they shoot Sara's blind dog and steal the coat Marilyn Monroe was married in. From here on in we are absorbed into the life of Grady and those around him, from his publisher terry Crabtree (Downey jr) to his writer rival, Q. we see lives slowly fall apart, relationships blossom, a novel disappear into the wind and a black dude who refuses to be called Vernon Hardapple, all in one weekend.

Wonder Boys never disappoints. It's dry humour and bizarre imagination never stops for a second, and we are glued with a grin on our faces. Hardly realistic, the audience can still feel for the characters as their lives spiral into a comic frenzy. Grady and his off-beat world crumbling around him as he searches for happiness; Terry, the flamboyant homosexual who puts on a brave face, believing in others as he searches for a comeback novel (which he will not get from Grady); James, the loner who needs to release the genius within himself. These are the wonder boys. Frances McDormand and Katie Holmes gladly take a back seat in the story as this film refuses to be weighed down by sap.

The acting is flawless, with at least two superb supporting roles. Robert Downey jr sparkles in his greatest role since Chaplin, but it is Tobey Maguire who makes us feel he has always been that awkward, deadpan student that is James Leer. For those who have seen Pleasantville and The Cider House Rules will recognise Maguire for the talant he is (it almost makes one feel he sold out when taking the Spider-Man role), and here he has been sadly overlooked for a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Douglas is in fine form as he always is in these strange and demanding roles, the last one being Falling Down. He can play a suicidal maniac and a stoned teacher and both roles will seem tailor made. The direction is impeccable as Hanson allows the characters to shine and the story flow, and it is almost unbelievable that this man directed the gritty, deadly serious L.A. Confidential. He packs Kloves screenplay with comic beauty and I sincerely hope he continues to direct these understated movies.

The big money-makers over the past few years have been either remakes, sequels or by-the-number churned out garbage and all these have one objective: to earn copious amounts of cash. Many of these film are successful in this aim but fail to capture one's imagination as Wonder Boys does so well. It is a shame to see the public throw there money at `Rocky and Bullwinkle' when it really should go to those who deserve it, those who still care about the art of motion picture. Anyone that will sit down to watch this will agree that it is a treasure to behold. A hidden treasure
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A Brilliant Film
RobertF8730 January 2005
I really love this film. Based on a novel by Michael Chabron, the film is set in a university over the course of a week-end long writing festival. The story concerns Professor Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas) who's first novel was a huge success and has been struggling with the follow-up novel for years. When the film begins, Grady's young wife has just left him and his lover (who is married to the head of the English Department) is pregnant. Also, Grady's editor (Robert Downey Jr.) has arrived to see his (still unfinished) novel. To add to Grady's woes he has to cope with a brilliant, but deeply odd, student (Tobey Maguire).

The film has some very strong and witty dialogue, and benefits from great performances all around. Probably writers and aspiring writers will like this film for it's portrayal of the literary life. Anyone though will enjoy the humour, heart and fun of this inspirational movie.
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Time Out of Mind
yayamagic5 June 2003
At a recent Dylan concert, my friend Charlie pointed out a shiny gold statuette placed unobtrusively atop one of the speakers way in the back of the stage. It was the Oscar which Dylan won for his Best Song "Things Have Changed" from this movie, from "The Wonder Boys." I was glad that my friend pointed out that gold thing in the background because it added a whole other dimension to the concert. There was a story behind the statue - the whole "Wonder Boys" story and I was glad to be familiar with it. No, Bob never mentioned the statue. Why should he? He's Bob Dylan. He just did his thing, played his music.

Life presents us with the absurd as much as it does the mundane. Watching the way people handle the good and bad drama in their life is a hobby of mine. I liked the way Bob Dylan kept his "Wonder Boys" gold quietly present.

Michael Douglas' Grady Tripp doesn't call attention to his abnormally odd weekend, either. Douglas' Grady always maintains his cool even with a transvestite's tuba and his mistress' husband's dead dog and "the Crabtree pharmacopoeia" in the trunk of his ass-marked car. Grady deals with all of it. Grady deals with everything this peculiar weekend shows him - with a calm voice and an attitude mellowed from either age or experience or pot. In the here and now, he is calm and quiet but we all know that he'll have his anxiety or heart attack quietly near offstage with as few crowds and drama about them as possible.

Grady speaks lines like "gimme the gun, James" matter of factly, the same way that his married girlfriend tells him she's pregnant, the same way he'd order a drink from Oola. Why add drama and histrionics to the mix? He is what he is. Things are the way they are - even though things have changed.

One of the things that separates one human from another is the way we deal with change. isn't it? Personally? I want to hear about the absurdities of life. I like observing how people deal with it all. I like those stories.

Tripp's fellow travelers are in flux too - it's not just Grady going through change - his wife (unseen), his mistress (France McDormand), his editor (Robert Downey, Jr.), his students (Tobey Maguire and Katie Holmes) - all of them are experiencing an extraordinary weekend but there's hardly a voice raised in the storytelling.

The soundtrack alone is worth the viewing, thanks, Bob Dylan! And Curtis Hansen, Michael Chabon - tell me another story, please! If you can manage to bring a similarly wonderful ensemble cast - even better!
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Long Live Vernon Hardapple
fushnicken691 February 2002
Michael Douglas has always been one of my favorite actors. He deserved his Oscar for Wall Street, commanded every second of screen time he had in Falling Down, and has given some of the most underrated comic performances in history in Romancing the Stone and War of the Roses. But I'd have to give his performance in Wonder Boys as his best. His turn as stoner college professor Grady Tripp is the model for the laid back, totally likeable and loveable protaginist. He's the kind of professor I dream of having in real life.

After watching this movie, I seriously wanted to go and write a book. For any of you blocked writers out there, just pop in Wonder Boys and you have your muse.
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One of the best films of the 2000s
TheMarwood24 May 2014
Mostly ignored upon release and subsequently forgotten, this gem from 2000 is my favorite work from Curtis Hanson, who was deciding between directing this film and what was to be the Brett Ratner/Nic Cage film The Family Man. Good choice Mr. Hanson. The film was poorly marketed in the US and given a terrible release date in February and tanked, but psychotic producer Scott Rudin used his muscle to get the film re-released at the end of the year for Oscar consideration. It picked up a few nominations, but tanked again in the box office. This a is such a nice, warm and beautiful film that I find it puzzling that it also received a C cinemascore from audiences. That's a toxic exit poll and a death blow for word of mouth. There really isn't a moment in the film that feels false or out of place. It's constructed with such care and so beautifully shot by Dante Spinotti. Michael Douglas does his best work here and the man is in almost every frame of the film and he carries it like a pro. There isn't a false note in his performance and Grady Tripp is an unforgettable character. It's a simple film that takes place over a few days about characters going through complicated times in their lives and it never falls into sentiment or is condescending to the audience. It's almost perfect and it's very funny.
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Fresh, Funny and entertaining!
Anners15 March 2000
I truly enjoyed this film. I went into the theater not knowing much about it; perhaps that had something to do with the reason I liked it so much. I found this film to be extremely witty and entertaining. I found myself intrigued by each character, especially the dark, mysterious James Leer (Tobey Maguire). It has been a while since I have sat in a theater merely enjoying a movie. The storyline was rather odd, but kept my interest. The students in the film had a quite casual relationship with their professors. All in all, I can say that each actor gave a wonderful performance; and if you are looking to see a film that upon leaving the theater will make you feel happy and disturbed, then this is the film.
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The best college movie since 'Animal House'.
mhasheider14 March 2001
Funny and enjoyable drama about a self-centered English professor (Michael Douglas) who encounters several little dilemmas during a weekend festival on the college campus where he works.

The performance that Douglas delivers here got to be one of his finest in recent memory. Perhaps his best. Besides Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Katie Holmes, Frances McDormand, Rip Torn, and Robert Downey, Jr. make one of the best supporting casts that I've seen in quite some time. Downey and Maguire (who portray the curious editor and the prized pupil) both turn in super performances that should have earned the pair Best Supporting Actor nominations. Torn's character shares the same name as the man who gave James Bond those cute and exciting gadgets, which is "Q".

"Wonder Boys" is the first film directed by Curtis Hanson, who hit gold with "L.A. Confidential" a few years ago. Screenwriter Steve Kloves writes a smart and intelligent story here and places the funny moments with some perfect timing. Photographer Dante Spinotti ("Heat", "L.A. Confidential", "The Insider") provides the movie with great views of the campus during the fall and winter seasons. The movie's theme song, "Things Have Changed", written and sung by the legendary Bob Dylan, is great to listen to and deserves an Oscar for it.

Overall, this film is the best college movie made since John Landis' classic comedy spoof/satire, "Animal House". This movie is "Animal House" with much better morals and doesn't have the common clichés.
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Sublimely wonderful Douglas and Maguire
george.schmidt27 April 2004
WONDER BOYS (2000) **** Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Frances McDormand, Robert Downey Jr., Katie Holmes, Rip Torn, Richard Thomas, Jane Adams, Michael Cavadias, Philip Bosco.

Michael Douglas is not one of the best actors of comedy .until now. In the adaptation of Michael Chabon's excellent novel of has-beens, chemical imbibing and a 2 day journey of self-discovery, he emerges as if an old pro in one memorable turn as its antihero, Grady Tripp (great name!)

Tripp is - to make a funny here - having a bad trip in one disastrous day. It begins when his (unseen) wife leaves him. From there it only gets worse. Tripp is a tenured English professor at a Pittsburgh university and something of a has-been downward spiral loser (he once was praised as a `wonder boy' for his first novel of acclaim and has been 7 years down the road struggling to finish its behemoth (over 2000 pages) follow-up) who has many balls juggling in the air as a weekend of literary workshops awaits his presence: namely his affair with his boss's wife, the Chancellor, Sara Gaskell (Mc Dormand giving another patented flawless performance) who announces with perfect timing that she's pregnant. To make matters even worse, its at their cocktail party for a loquacious literary figurehead improbably known as `Q' (Torn, subdued avuncularity) and in tow are his ambisexual New York editor Terry Crabtree (the always welcome Downey) hounding him for a peek at his epic tome who has brought along a titaness of a transvestite (Cavadias) he met on the plane and Grady's two prized pupils, the warm, glowing (and obviously seductive) Hannah Green (the down right sexy baby fat sweet Holmes) and heir apparent, suicidally tormented chronic storyteller/liar James Leer (a star making turn by the incredible Maguire, showcasing his low-key subtle skills at full tilt). Both are perfect..

What ensues is a series of bad timing, unfortunate luck, a dead dog, mistaken identity, pill and alcohol binging (think a less venal `Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas'), secrets revealed, the pilfering of Marilyn Monroe's wedding coat (don't ask, trust me it works!) and gradually the understandment of a particularly Zen-like kwon : it doesn't matter what one thinks of another when it comes to being a creative, artistic genius.

Douglas is a revelation as a bonafide movie-star allowing the actor he's always had inside (the last time I can recall a `real' character he's done is the ticking human time bomb in `Falling Down') by allowing to deglam his persona of a slick, lady-killing cocksure swaggardly handsome devil and here allow himself to be absorbed by a lumpy, pot-smoking, hazy for the future shlump who discovers the truth lies within. And of course that little realization is by no means a slight since it is offered by the melancholic Maguire who exudes a spacey sadness when he's not busy polluting his body to cover his pain(s) or narrating his own assisted run to the men's room to recover (hilarious by the way). His James Leer is Sancho Panza to Grady's Don Quixote in a twisted sense. Downey has fun as usual as the straw that stirs the drink of debauchery and chicanery that occurs.

Filmmaker Steve Kloves (who was originally set to direct and is best known for his debut with the fabulous `The Fabulous Baker Boys') adapts the off-beat quirky novel excellently to the screen with some great dialogue and unique situations (i.e. how to make the bad joke of a dead dog a good running gag).

Director Curtis Hanson, better known for gritty noir influenced flicks like `Bad Influence' and the Oscar-winning `L.A. Confidential' plumbs the depths of humanity through humor and succeeds by making it a fun-filled ride into the inner sanctum of all artists: self-destruction is easy, self-acceptance isn't always.
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A Writers Movie
u2hanks30 May 2006
With subtle nuances such as Grady trying to validate himself as a writer by saying tired clichés, "It's the kind of house you want to wake up in on Christmas," Wonder Boys is a brilliant picture. The great Curtis Hanson, which for my money, is the one of the most consistently excellent director working, makes this film have a wonderful feel, which is important because the words on a page have texture, feeling and purpose. He makes it palpable.

The performances are spectacular. Toby Maguire works his boy-childness with subtle perfection. Robert Downey Jr. devours this character up and becomes another memorable, quotable, relatable entity on film. How does he do it? And of course, two solids: Michael Douglas and Frances McDormand.

It's funny how smaller, lesser known films that are of great quality like this don't need an ad campaign that leaves everyone nauseous with dilution ("I've seen the preview so often, if they were showing the film I would be out by now"), destroy the drum to let you know what great singer(s) cum actor(s) are in this spectacle, or how extreme we can be for the sake of a plot.

"Wonder Boys" is about people. People who are at the juncture. It's like a group of friends that came to school, live together in a house, share great times, and will part, only to have the memories. The time will never be genuine again; only the memory. This film is about that juncture.

What's more to say except if more films were like this, I would be seeing more films in the theater. Simple, not trying to overextend, everyone has a story, or in the right hands, they can make a up a great one for you. Even the President of the James Brown Hair Club.

There's a reason the best films at the academy awards are the ones up for Best Screenplay

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Slowburning, lighthearted, lovely portrait of a man who has lost hope, but finds inspiration again in the last place he could have expected.
imseeg30 October 2018
Slowburning, lovely, comical portrait of Michael Douglas, playing a writer who realizes he is a one hit wonder, unable to write a successful sequel to his prize winning writer's debut.

Probably best suited for an arthouse audience and not for the masses who might mistakenly expect a straight comedy, which it is not. It has lots of tongue in cheek jokes though that are interwoven into a subtle, intelligent, slowburning story about writer's block.

Every human characteristic is handled with such exquisite delight that director Curtis Hanson must be praised for creating this delicious gem. Terrific, hilarious deadpan face acting by Tobey Maguire and Robert Downey Jr. Great soundtrack with contributions by Bob Dylan and Van Morrison.

Upbeat, intelligent story with some very delightful twists and turns. Seen it many times now and it is here to stay. Definitely feel good! Movies like this dont come along very often. What a gift!
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A unique comedy with likable characters and a great plot.
sonumania12325 April 2013
Wonder Boys is a unique comedy that lets you see what the characters are going through. The movie presents itself a pleasant and strange characters and see what is about to occur in every little bit. Wonder Boys achieves to be both a delightful character study and also a stunning success directed into a nice joint piece. It is fairly uplifting to see characters cooperate, contrast,connect, laugh, and mostly do things that appear in full honesty. While it's not a flawless movie, Wonder Boys is applauded for its sharp and smart script and bountiful of great acting.

Grady is having a bumpy day. His wife left him, his girlfriend is pregnant, he has an attractive looking student whom rents a room from him, and his editor shows up at his city with a transvestite, and one of his students shows up at a party with a gun. As the viewers, we're in for one hell of entertaining ride.

When a flick like Wonder Boys works in nearly all sizes, the greatest attention is rewarded to the actors and actresses. Michael Douglas was pleasant to watch in this movie. Frances McDormand modestly glosses. Katie Holmes was all-out excellent in her character. She's relaxed and smart, and a harsh one as well. As continuously, Robert Downey Jr. is funny and hazardous. He accepts much jeopardy as an actor. The one who mounted out the most for me is Tobey Maguire, smart, shy, weird, and funny was the type of character he played. The kind of guy you stay away from if you were to encounter one in school.

Wonder Boys prepares what any upright film would do: It provides characters to like and a script that expresses a charming story.
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An engaging, wonderful, inspiring motion picture--one of the years best. **** out of ****.
Movie-1214 March 2000
WONDER BOYS / (2000) ****

Starring: Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Frances McDormand, Katie Holmes, Robert Downey Jr., Rip Torn, and Richard Thomas Directed by Curtis Hanson. Written by Steve Kloves, based on the novel by Michael Chabon. Running time: 112 minutes. Rated R (for strong drug use and for language).

I have always dreamed of becoming a professional writer for a living. Curtis Hanson's new comic drama, "Wonder Boys," is as accurate and enriching to my opinions and hopes as any movie I have seen. This is a wonderful, inspiring motion picture--one of the years best. It is a movie that enlightens our culture and moves us passionately, while at the same time provides the audience with laughter and moral aspects. This is a great movie to start out the new year.

The film stars the extraordinary Michael Douglas as a college professor named Grady Tripp, who is around fifty years old. He has written an award winning novel, "Arsonist's Daughter," seven years ago. Since, however, his follow up is drifting and unfocused, wondering over 2,600 single spaced pages in length. Although he does not believe in it, everyone thinks he has writer's block.

There is an assortment of characters and events brilliantly portrayed within the film's setup, all surrounding Grady. His third wife recently left him, due to her loneliness. He is having an affair with the University's chancellor, Sara Gasket (Frances McDormand), who has become pregnant after several implied encounters and happens to be the wife of his boss, the chairman of the English department, Walter (Richard Thomas). A foreign, loony man, Vernon (Richard Knox), is furious over something to do with Tripp's automobile. His bisexual and antsy editor, Crabtree (Robert Downey Jr.), appearing with the company of a transvestite, desiring to take a look at Grady's long overdue writing piece, but uses the towns writer's conference as an ulterior motive. Also present, a high held writer named Q (Rip Torn), who raises the stress for Tripp, and two students of his, Hannah (Katie Holmes), who rents a room out of his house, and may even be willing to sleep with Grady, and his most brilliant author James Leer (Tobey Maguire), who bonds with him as the movie progresses.

A lot occurs in "Wonder Boys," and the plot is very labyrinthine, although it never becomes confused and always keeps its cool. The characters are perfectly defined and cast. Their intentions and motives are clear and developed with shape and gradual effectiveness. Curtis Hanson pays close attention to each separate character, giving them dimensional qualities, intelligence and depth.

Complications arise when several key events take place. There is a Monroe artifact stolen from the chancellor's closet and her pet dog ends up shot to death when James defends Grady who is being attacked. These occurrences lead to bondings between Grady Tripp and James, Heather and just about every other character in the film.

Heather says in one scene that Tripp's novel would be much better if he would lay off the marijuana usage. She is correct. Grady often lives under the influence, and this is just one of the ideas the film looks at, along with family dysfunction, adultery, abortions, theft, abuse, severe loss, and even violence. All these concepts apply to the morality of the movie.

The narrative through line enhances the story and characters thoroughly. Each scene propels the plot forward, either creating a new conflict or complicating a previous one. This film contains one of the most stolid structures I have seen all year. The conclusion of "Wonder Boys" is effectual and sums up everything in an apprehensive manor--and is of the same standards as its previous material. How rare is it to screen a movie when the finale is just as engaging as the overall story.

"Wonder Boys" contains dialogue that is decisive and smart. It has a wickedly witty mood, but is still beautifully written and portrayed. Improving the production is the moody atmosphere of a light thriller--and it still overlaps with comic travesty. Although the film is more conceptual than actual, and empowered with overtones rather than reflexive relief, the laughs are still frequent, the intrigue is constant and the statement is clear.

I also liked the film's visual style and cinematography. From the fitting soundtrack to the story's presentation, the atmospheres is absolutely mesmerizing from start to finish. Especially wonderful are the sequences in which it snows in the evening. The way the glistening white flakes drift gently down onto the ground from a peaceful and dark sky captures the characters emotional aspects is just stunning. Even the costuming, scenery, and tone are skillful.

Michael Douglas, known for characters more active than Grady Tripp, is utterly marvelous here. James writes in a page of his work that Grady, who was once capable for inspiring a world, is now unable to inspire himself. This painfully true scene in captured flawlessly by his Oscar worthy performance. As he, and the other earth shattering performers, entice the audience, we feel much emotion for these characters. So much that we do not realize it until the closing credits role past.

Brought to you by Paramount Pictures.
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The Best Movie of 2000
CAPTWillard16 November 2001
As the years go on, the academy is getting more and more out of tune with actual great movies and is instead nominating mainstream garbage. This was especially apparent in the 2000 ceremony where a summer blockbuster, a popcorn movie, won the coveted best picture Oscar. Gladiator was entertaining, a movie with a large head, but no brain. It was a movie you watch and forget about the next day, and it won. Truth be told, the year 2000 was not a great year for the movies. Coming off a spectacular 1999 year in which we saw at least 15 great films, 2000 was rather uneventful. But there were 5 great movies, and only two were nominated for best picture. Traffic and Crouching Tiger were nominated, and the other three were almost completely snuffed in every category. Almost Famous, You Can Count On Me, and finally Wonder Boys were the rest of the best and were ignored by the fools at the academy. It's almost a toss up as to which film was THE best, but my personal favorite was Wonder Boys (Though I treasure the other four greatly). Michael Douglas is stunning in what is, in my not so humble opinion, by far his best performance and role ever. He is spectacular and with each scene he out does what he did in the last one. The supporting cast is also stellar and compliments Douglas perfectly. I loved the screen play. I even read it twice after viewing the movie and I've never read a script in my life. The cinematography is also excellent and the directing is flawless (same guy who did L.A. Confidential, another classic). Well, just watch this movie if you haven't seen it and enjoy a great film (also check out the other 4 I mentioned).
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A messy adaptation
itamarscomix23 September 2011
Alternating between an oddball comedy, a surreal thriller and a meditation on the nature of writing, Wonder Boys is an original and thought-provoking film that doesn't quite reach its goal. It's unclassifiable and virtually indescribable, yet all the stylistic tools it uses seem to come directly from any one of the genres it's comprised of; it doesn't do enough to create its own unique style, and therefore fails to focus and become a unique non-genre piece. In other words, it feels too often like a mainstream Hollywood affair, when it's anything but.

Wonder Boys is adapted from a very early work by Michael Chabon, to my taste one of the finest American novelists of the last twenty years, and his lack of experience is felt in the script as it is in the novel. It's filled with lots of great ideas, but it lacks in that ever-important focus - and so remains unsatisfying. It's an interesting movie that's worth checking out, especially for those interested in writing and authors, but it's not likely to become an all-time favorite.
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A waste of an acting talent ensemble
Gordon-1126 February 2010
This film is about a college professor taking a troubled student under his wing, as a way to deal with his extra-marital affair and his separation from his wife.

"Wonder Boys" might have had promise as an engaging drama. Normally, I love watching such tear inducing dramas, but it did nothing for me. I find the plot too contrived and poorly explained. James Leer is such a weird person, lying compulsively and manipulative of people around him. I certainly do not see a good reason why Professor Grady Tripp had to help this guy. The supporting characters, played by Katie Holmes and Robert Downey Jr., are poorly developed. Their characters, especially Katie Holmes', could have been more developed to provide better development of the plot.

In short, I felt bored with the film, and disgusted by James Leer. I also feel frustrated by Professor Grady Tripp's irrational choices to help James Leer. I did not enjoy watching "Wonder Boys", and I think it is a waste of an acting talent ensemble.
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Literary Film
jay4stein79-120 November 2004
Films about writers present directors and screenwriters with a rather unenviable task. Writing is an internal activity, thereby the rendering this activity in a visual medium can prove tedious for the audience. Most films about writers, then, tend to focus on biographical developments; writing is secondary to the overall plot. When these films also explore writing, they are gussied up (like Secret Window) with the trappings of other genres or they're dull (like The Hours).

Sometimes, though, a director and screenwriter create a magical film about writers and writing that is not only entertaining and intelligent, but also fairly indicative of the writing process. The Man From Elysian Fields (a terrific contemporary morality play that has not received nearly enough attention) and this film are perfect examples.

Wonder Boys is an absolute trip on every level; it's also an absolute treat. Curtis Hanson, as the director, reveals that his sure-handedness in LA Confidential was no fluke. He's even better here, eliciting fantastic performances from every actor and treating a rather zany concept with realism and dignity. This juxtaposition serves the story brilliantly, for, though it at times seems absurd, the absurdity never wanders overtakes the genuine and palpable emotions and perfect realism of the characters. Individual events occur in this movie that, without the previous 10 events, would be implausible. Given the narrative, though, the most insane developments follow the film's own logic. In this way, Wonder Boys is a screwball comedy for the 21st century, carrying on the spirit of Bringing Up Baby without, really, referencing those types of films overtly (which is whY Wonder Boys is far more successful than the Hudsucker Proxy).

That Hanson can keep this situation under control is amazing.

As mentioned above, Wonder Boys is also filled with amazing performances, particularly by Michael Douglas, who, though always a favorite of mine, never seems to pick roles that demand much of him. He gives Grady humor and humanity, which is precisely what Mr. Tripp needs. The other actors (Frances McDormand, Robert Downey Jr., Katie Holmes, and Tobey Maguire) all give performances that rival their best work. Though this is not surprising of Downey, McDormand, and Maguire, Holmes truly astounds. Sure, her portrayal of Libbets in the Ice Storm was excellent, but what about those other movies? She was okay, but they were undemanding roles. Thankfully, she has started taking on some more mature roles (Pieces of April for instance) and will, I think, surprise everyone in a couple years.

I also have to commend the screen writing. As I said, writing a movie about writers and writing is difficult and Steven Kloves does an admirable job. What's even more impressive is his adaptation of Michael Chabon's great novel. Kloves cuts judiciously from the original text and maintains the spirit of the novel. That rarely occurs and this adaptation should be required reading for any budding screenwriter.

Wonder Boys is a great and under-rated film; for me it's one of the five best released in this decade. It's sad, serious, funny, and bizarre. It's everything a relatively mainstream movie should be.
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Thinks much too highly of itself
danerwaner11 April 2004
This movie thinks it so incredibly smart. Not only is the narrative unbearably pretentious, but every character tries so hard to be quick-witted that the dialog just comes across as downright unrealistic. No one speaks or reacts to situations like a real human being would. That is what ultimately ruined this movie for me.

Which is why I am so surprised to see such an the inordinate amount of high-praising reviews. Did we all see the same movie here? Were you all seriously tricked into thinking this movie was as clever and witty as it so shamelessly boasted? It was NOT clever or witty. It was unrealistic and scattered.
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One of the stupidest movies I have seen in years
jawlefelar5 March 2000
This movie was dull, had little or no plot, and had really uninteresting characters played rather poorly by the actors. I thought that it had gone on for at least 4 hours and looked like it was going on and on and on with nothing happening. I wonder why it is on the big screen playing nationally.
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Beware of All the Hype
Uriah4328 November 2012
Every now and then a movie comes along which all the leading critics give rave reviews about. But upon closer inspection it becomes obvious that all of the applause was much adieu about nothing. So it is with this film. Having just seen it, I must say that I was not impressed. Michael Douglas (as "Professor Grady Tripp") gave an adequate performance. Nothing more and nothing less. Yet for some strange reason he was nominated for both a BAFTA Film Award and a Golden Globe. Good for him. But quite frankly, I don't understand why. Likewise, Frances McDormand won the BSFC Award for "Best Supporting Actress" for her performance as "Dean Sara Gaskell". Again, she performed adequately. But once again, I failed to see anything in her performance that was so outstanding or noteworthy. Then there is the matter of all the awards the film received which includes the BAFTA Film Award for "Best Screenplay" and a Golden Globe nomination for "Best Motion Picture-Drama". Because of this, one might think that this was an extremely good movie which certainly had great acting and a dynamite plot as well. Well, I guess I must have been watching a different movie because to me this film was a meandering collection of characters and events which never seemed to coalesce around anything meaningful or tangible. For example, one of the college students named "Hannah Green" (Katie Holmes) apparently had a crush on Professor Tripp. Okay, things like that happen. But it was nothing more than a side-event that never really went anywhere and didn't add anything significant to the film or even matter in the grand scheme of things. That being the case, I thought Katie Holmes' talent was wasted in this movie. Another rather useless scenario involved a character named, "Vernon Hardapple" (Richard Knox) and his pregnant girlfriend, "Oola" (Jane Adams). Supposedly, Professor Tripp was riding around in a car that had been stolen from Vernon and he was completely unaware of it. Again, I fail to see the significance or humor in this as it adds nothing substantial to this film. Same thing with the names, "Hardapple", "Crabtree" (Robert Downey Jr.) and "Tripp" (for the pot-smoking professor). Come on. Making fun of a person's last name is the kind of juvenile humor one might find in a grade school playground--but it doesn't belong in a big time motion picture. In short, this movie had some big actors in it and it received a lot of awards. That's all well and good. But I have the feeling that maybe the stars in this cast somehow influenced the critics because the film itself didn't seem that spectacular to me and I'm sure there were plenty of other films made that year which were more deserving and much better in comparison. If not, then it must have been a bad year for the motion picture industry. In any case, I'm satisfied to let the viewers make their own evaluation and I will end with one last thought: Beware of all the hype.
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Perfect, quirky, polished and cool, cool, cool
KaterinaNV3 December 2002
Can I just say how much I thoroughly enjoyed this film??? Fantastic. I don't know what happened to Curtis Hanson, but he's obviously had two lives: before LA Confidential and after LA Confidential. First off, the script was awesome, I couldn't find a flaw in the story anywhere. And Michael Douglas? Not that I don't love him in thrillers, but man, it was great to see him do something different and do it so well. I think it's probably the most endearing character he's played to date. And utterly convincing in the process. Katie Holmes is obviously a very shrewd young actress, she continues to avoid teen movie leads and take interesting supporting roles in quality film and I'm sure this will only end up working in her favor. Frances McDormand, who is brilliant in her own right was wonderful and firm and quirky - a perfect fit. And Tobey was customed made for the part of James Leer. Forget Spiderman, yeah, I know it made tons at the box office and was fun to watch but this is an infinitely better showcase for his talent and gives him his own niche. Hanson (may I kiss the ground you walk on for giving me this film?) really made a great film. I know I already said it above, but I really was impressed. And whoever wrote this, now that's talent. From the blind dog, to 'Vernon' to Marilyn Monroe to the novel that never ends, the whole thing was just a joy to watch. I haven't enjoyed a movie that I could compare to this since Nobody's Fool with Paul Newman (another outstanding film).

You know it's a good film when you're in the midst of hell and your spirits are down and after sitting for 2 hours watching a film, you get up and feel like the world might still be an okay place and all is not lost. That's what Wonder Boys did for me and I can tell it's one of the movies that I'll probably watch many times over as the years go by. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. I can't recommend this film highly enough.
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gabormark7512 April 2021
You expect a quality movie based on the line up of great actors, but the story is totally bananas. Wanna be artistic movie set in a university scenery with a professor taking drugs and being famous for being screwed up. Totally random story with little coherence between parts of the movie. Makes zero sence. Made me pissed off. Five stars only for seeing Katie, and the actors trying hard. Why Iron man and spider man are having a homo scene? Disturbing.
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Dark and depressing!
Rubywife13 July 2001
I was very disappointed in this movie. The storyline was pointless, as were the characters. It was depressing and dark. I found it impossible to understand or even care about the characters. I never really figured out what the plot was all about.
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