Wonder Boys

"Good"

Wonder Boys Review


If "Wonder Boys" is to be a hit at all -- and it deserves to be -- it's going to have to be a word of mouth hit, because the marketing for this movie stinks.

The poster is a homely, dueling-airbrushes disaster. The commercials and trailers don't capture a fraction the movie's antic character. As near as I can figure, the insipid title has nothing to do with the story -- about a benevolent, crusty college professor whose life is turned amusingly upside-down in a single weekend.

I suspect that, except for those who have read the Michael Chabon novel or have a particular penchant for one of the perfectly-cast players, most folks won't be feeling much of a jones to see it.

And that's a shame because "Wonder Boys" is an effortlessly off-kilter comedy with an impeccable cinema pedigree that serves its quirky story well.

Michael Douglas -- graduating gracefully and comically from long-flagging stud-dom into a comfortable, frumpy middle-aged role -- stars as Grady Tripp, a once-bohemian Pittsburgh prof at a crossroads in his life where habitually eluding responsibility just isn't going to cut it anymore.

The author of a best-seller some seven years ago, his entertaining troubles start with the arrival of his trenchant editor (Robert Downey, Jr), who has come to camp out on Grady's couch until he coughs up a rough draft of his long-overdue second novel. Grady is trying to keep him at bay because he doesn't want to admit the book has become a 2,600-page, stream-of-consciousness monster.

The book business is just the beginning of a storm of awkward situations that pile up on him in a matter of days.

He's impregnated the chancellor (Frances McDormand), whose husband is his boss. His oddest student -- an introverted, emotionally stunted author-prodigy played by Tobey Maguire (in an ideal role for his deadpan demeanor) -- has attached himself to Grady and opened up in a burst of personal history that may be just his creativity run amok.

And before long he's contending with a dead dog, a tuba, a stolen car, a transvestite Downey picked up on the plane, and the romantic advances of an innocently sexy student (Katie Holmes) who rents a room in his house and would gladly crawl into the side of his bed recently vacated by much-younger wife number three.

Directed by "L.A. Confidential" helmer Curtis Hanson (who brought with him production designer Jeannine Oppenwall and cinematographer Dante Spinotti), "Wonder Boys" is a buoyant, comic collision of peculiarly congruous characters -- well-drawn by this cast that's really on its game -- and great little touches of winking absurdity.

The screenplay (by Steve Kloves, "The Fabulous Baker Boys") is full of funny swipes at academic intelligentsia and other punchy asides as it weaves Grady into escalating, but never implausible, messes.

In the first pure comedy of his career, Douglas is game for it all. Gray and unshaven, with reading glassed perched precariously on his nose, he strikes an ideally eccentric chord that carries the spirit of the movie as Grady is unceremoniously catapulted out of his elongated rut. Just seeing him in ratty bathrobe and knit cap while sneaking a morning joint gets a robust round of laughs.

No one can say if Curtis Hanson has another "L.A. Confidential" in him (his earlier movies have all been of the well-financed but B-grade variety). But if by some miracle audiences do turn out for "Wonder Boys," he certainly could have a future as the director of droll social parodies.



Wonder Boys

Facts and Figures

Run time: 107 mins

In Theaters: Friday 25th February 2000

Budget: $35M

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Production compaines: Paramount Pictures, Curtis Hanson Productions, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), MFF Feature Film Productions, Marubeni, Mutual Film Company, Scott Rudin Productions, Toho-Towa

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Fresh: 101 Rotten: 23

IMDB: 7.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Prof. Grady Tripp, as James Leer, as Dean Sara Gaskell, as Hannah Green, as Quentin 'Q' Morewood, Robert Downey Jr. as Terry Crabtree, as Oola, Michael Cavadias as Miss Antonia 'Tony' Sloviak, as Walter Gaskell, as Sam Traxler, as Emily's Father, as Amanda Leer, as Fred Leer

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.