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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 29.05%
Average: 6.76%
Pretty Bad: 7.43%
Total Crap: 3.38%

13 reviews, 70 user ratings

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Wonder Boys
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by Brian McKay

"Could this small wonder be 'The Perfect Film'?"
5 stars

It's so fucking rare that I can't find anything to nitpick about in a movie. Even after LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS -the single most beautiful, amazing, exhilarating, mind-blowingly orgasmic epic to yet grace the big screen, there was a frame or two of dodgy CGI here and there. Truly an insignificant nitpick, but a nitpick nonetheless. But ask me to nitpick WONDER BOYS . . . and I gots nothin'.

Seriously. I can't find a goddamn thing wrong with it. Not one dramatic scene that rings emotionally hollow. Not one bit of dialogue that comes off sounding stilted. Not one joke that misfires. Not one moment that feels either dumbed down or pretentious and elitist. It's just a great fucking movie that feels effortless to enjoy from beginning to end. But maybe I have one little advantage that most people watching this don't have. I'm a writer.

I'm not saying I'm a good writer, although I have been occasionally told that I have some chops. And I would in no way tout myself as a professional writer - although I recently started getting a check on the side for some freelance work, and I gotta say it feels pretty damn good to have someone actually paying you for doing something you love. But good or bad, pro or am, I am a writer, and while there's something here for everyone to enjoy, I think this film was really made for me and my ilk.

Michael Douglas? Can't praise him enough here. What a joyous change of pace this is from the kinds of roles he usually ends up in (white-collar psycho/corporate exec asshole/scheming wife-killer etc.). Not that he isn't consistently great in most of the roles he takes on, but he's just so wonderfully droll and down to earth here as University English Professor Grady Tripp. I haven’t seen such a perfect display of deadpan (and non-characteristic) comedic timing since Bill Murray in Rushmore. And unlike most voice-over narration, Douglas’s frequent interjections seem to hit all the right notes.

Yes, Grady Tripp is a professor, but more than that, he’s a writer. He smokes an unhealthy amount of weed (this coming from someone who has smoked it copiously of late). He shuffles around the house in his “writing robe” (the most hideous, faded, ratty red monstrosity you’ll ever see). He rents a room in his ramshackle Victorian to gorgeous young student Hannah (Katie Holmes), who has a crush on him and his work. He bangs school Chancellor Sara Gaskell (Frances McDormand) behind the backs of both his young trophy wife and Sara’s husband – who just happens to be the Dean of the English department, and his boss. He also teaches a class full of students, knowing that only one of them is destined for literary greatness – the brooding and elusive James Leer (Tobey Maguire, who is just as amazing as Douglas here). James writes the kind of stories that make the average reader want to kill themselves, carries around a loaded firearm “for luck”, and is able to recite the date and method of any given celebrity suicide with savant-like precision. He also happens to be a damn good writer – the kind Grady used to be, and would like to be again.

Grady Tripp is about to have the longest, strangest weekend of his life, and just to kick things off right, his wife leaves him. As if he isn’t under enough stress, the university is hosting its “Wordfest” writer’s symposium this weekend, and his flamboyant bisexual party-boy editor Terry Crabtree (Robert Downey Jr.) has just hit town with a painfully mannish transvestite on his arm and an itch to have a look at Tripp’s latest manuscript. See, Tripp hasn’t put anything out since his critic’s sweetheart of a novel The Arsonist’s Daughter was released 8 years ago – and if Terry doesn’t get a finished manuscript out of him soon, he’s going to lose his job. But contrary to the popular rumor floating around between Tripp’s students and fellow faculty members, he isn’t suffering from writer’s block. He has been stricken with the opposing malady of the Smith-Corona squirts – he can’t stop writing his latest novel and has no idea how to end it.

It’s at the Wordfest opening night party at Sara’s house that Tripp’s life begins to take an insane spiral. Giving many more plot details would be a disservice to the viewer, so suffice it to say that beginning with a dead dog and a purloined jacket once owned by Marilyn Monroe, Trip has a weekend in which to make a major life decision, clean up James’ messes while helping him realize his potential as a great writer, and re-discover the muse that used to burn so brightly within himself.

WONDER BOYS is based on a novel by Michael Chabon (who I am delighted to see will be penning the screenplay for the upcoming SPIDERMAN sequel). While most people will find much to enjoy and laugh at in WONDER BOYS, it’s the English majors, the academicians, and especially the writers who will embrace it the most. You people know who you are – those who write not because they want to, or even because they can, but because they must. A single line sums it up perfectly, when Tripp is asked why he kept working on a novel that he didn’t really like and didn’t know how to end. He merely responds with, “I couldn’t stop”.

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originally posted: 12/29/02 06:54:50
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User Comments

5/28/15 Anne Hoping it would get better, it didn't. 1 stars
7/01/08 The Main Ingredient Brilliant Michael Douglas!, always plays a good stoner, in my top 10 of all time, must see 5 stars
10/04/07 The Film Maker I love movies like this. Great story, character driven, great acting except for one or two. 4 stars
9/19/07 yuko downey jr. was excellent as usual!! 5 stars
6/06/07 fools♫gold Sometimes people can be oh so dense. A great list of Bob Dylan tracks. 5 stars
12/28/06 Agent Sands I watch it every Christmastime. It has the ambiance of that festive, snowy holiday season. 5 stars
6/21/06 Sydney Finally: a gritty, unselfconscious story about writing 5 stars
8/17/05 ES Why is it that cinema now a days must have homo-erotica (token gay) to be considered good? 1 stars
7/30/05 Gabby Master Hell I liked it, not perfect but it has a good mood to it 4 stars
5/28/05 Indrid Cold Maybe I'm off base, but it seemed incredibly ponderous and uninteresting. 2 stars
11/11/04 andreea just loved it 5 stars
3/12/04 Monica Most realistic college movie ever! 5 stars
1/08/04 A F Pass it. 4 stars
12/23/03 tatum Inspiring, wonderful 5 stars
11/29/03 Agent Sands (previously Mr. Hat) One of the most effective feel-good movies I can think of. Great Xmas movie. 5 stars
10/24/03 laurabetty Douglas impressed me! first time for everything! 5 stars
7/25/03 elizabeth parsadanian tobey maguire is just so so so so so cute 3 stars
3/10/03 I didn't see this movie in the theater. I am very sorry. Matt Thiel 5 stars
12/29/02 Jack Sommersby Simply stupendous! The best film of 2000. 5 stars
11/10/02 Daniel Magnificent cast (particularly Tobey McGuire), very off-beat kind of story. Enjoyable. 4 stars
11/09/02 Steve insomnia cure 1 stars
10/30/02 spacecowboy it is indeed VERY DAMN GOOD...:) 5 stars
9/25/02 y2mckay Need to see again before proper review, but Mike Douglas the shiznit as stoned English prof 5 stars
11/30/01 James Cole Awesome 5 stars
8/29/01 Gary Maguire, Downey Jnr. and Douglas are all fantastic in a wonderfully warm and funny film. 5 stars
8/10/01 E-Funk So good. To bad no one saw it. McGuire is great, so is Douglas. Beautiful soundtrack. 5 stars
7/30/01 Turd Ferguson I figured I could have this movie on while I did my laundry and cl 5 stars
7/14/01 Paul C. One of the most uncontrived comedies I've ever see, not to mention a great story. 5 stars
6/12/01 Gizzy The most pretentious, thoroughly UNentertaining piece of self-indulgent rubbish ever 1 stars
6/10/01 Phil M. Afficianado The Angry Jew has said it all. Bravo for a great film all around. 5 stars
5/25/01 BrainPan What the crunk do you mean by "artsy?" 5 stars
5/23/01 Monday Morning Understated & stellar, but why couldn't they have shot a cat instead of a dog? 4 stars
4/29/01 R.W. Welch Entertaining, could have been a hit if a little less artsy. 4 stars
4/17/01 Jesse Gets better with each viewing. A real gem. 5 stars
4/15/01 Jake Brilliant film with clever dialogue and writing. 5 stars
4/09/01 PatrickG. Some good dialogue, but just an average movie. 3 stars
3/16/01 The Bomb 69 a "real" movie, something I could relate too, Hollywood ending though 5 stars
1/08/01 A.K. great performances, excellent story. an overlooked film 5 stars
12/02/00 Gray Movie of the year. Great acting from Douglas & Downey Jr, but Tobey Maguire is the star. 5 stars
11/25/00 TigerShark As dumb as 'Being John Malkovich'. Don't see it unless you like paying $7 for dogshit!! 1 stars
11/13/00 frankko great flick. the entire cast was super. 5 stars
10/31/00 Philm Phreak Haven't seen a better movie this year (except High Fidelity) 5 stars
10/27/00 Krista Clark Robert Downey Jr. deserves an Academy Award for this incredible performance! 5 stars
9/06/00 bornslippy Great witty comedy, a nice change from the crude shit teen comedies 5 stars
8/16/00 Drew Vogel Not great, but solid... this year, that's rare 4 stars
8/15/00 Pierce Lanson Douglas most surprisingly good, wonderful performances, funny, warm, loved it. 5 stars
8/09/00 matthew smith A superbly acted film 5 stars
7/27/00 Mr J M HARWOOD Really cleaver (not enough Katie Holmes though) 5 stars
4/11/00 kohawk If you didn't at least mildly enjoy this, well, you have shit for brains. Well acted. 4 stars
4/08/00 burton t. e. miller disturbing and unneccesary gay scene ruined the whole thing 2 stars
4/03/00 PJ I really Loved this movie, it was beautiful, original, and it inspires, I want to write. 5 stars
3/24/00 BILL What a disconnected mess of a life. Poorly written and even more poorly directed. 3 stars
3/23/00 Richie Wonder Boys was a boring piece of crap. Childish story. Seen it all before. 2 stars
3/22/00 maureen awesome! michael douglas in a good movie for a change!!! 5 stars
3/21/00 Terrance Phillip Very good flick, I saw that Mar@$@## movie and pretty much wanted to write hollywood off! 5 stars
3/19/00 Adam Top notch script, superb acting. 5 stars
3/19/00 Deckard Plot goes nowhere,yet still manages to fall apart over last half hour. 2 stars
3/17/00 schmegs pretty kick ass 5 stars
3/14/00 Julia i'm gonna take a long lunch and go watch this one again tomorrow. 5 stars
3/12/00 Louis I really enjoyed this movie. 5 stars
3/10/00 Dirty Dave Capone Great movie! Very funny! 5 stars
3/06/00 dface ehhh... not too great, ok if you like pot smoking profs. 3 stars
3/03/00 f*r*o*s*t*y Love it, you gotta see it. 5 stars
3/03/00 Tim Krauss A must for anyone who likes quality movies and Bob Dylan music. 5 stars
3/02/00 Heather Enjoyable, funny movie, the sight of the dog in the trunk was worth the ticket price alone 4 stars
3/01/00 PhilmPhreak Great job by all!! 4 stars
3/01/00 lyngweni most boring 2 stars
2/29/00 Captain Highcrime Entertaining--not the best o' the year (yet), but damn good show all the same. 4 stars
2/29/00 Natasha I wanted more time with many of the characters 4 stars
2/27/00 "Persnickety "Jenn it was good, not what i was expecting but worth seeing 4 stars
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  25-Feb-2000 (R)


  03-Aug-2000 (M)

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