Wonder Boys (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Wonder Boys is the story of a 50ish novelist whose second novel has been in progress for seven years. It's 2600 pages long, and he's nowhere near an ending. His life is going about as well.
The focus of the film is a long weekend which includes a writer's conference, a visit from his editor, and some adventures with a brilliant student.


It's a comedy - a very strange one, the kind usually called "offbeat" by the writers, and it involves guys stealing their own cars back, various unusual sex/love combinations, and dead animals in the trunk which are later used to fill out a guy's bed in order to fool his mom into thinking he's there. The characters, right down to the cameos, are all unusual and quirky, yet remarkable human and familiar when reined in by the massive talent of director Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential), and such acting luminaries as Frances McDormand, Downey Junior, and Michael Douglas. Douglas gets away from his stock arrogant businessmen and cocky detectives to play the lead, a stumbling English professor with no direction in his life or his work.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen 2.35:1, well-filmed, good transfer

  • the extras are disappointing for such a highly-regarded film: there are a few cast and crew interviews, a spotlight on the music, and a spotlight on the Pittsburgh locations. yawn.

The film is about the progress he makes toward getting back to what once made him a Wonder Boy.

It is very much like a quirky independent film, except that it was made by top talents with a $35 million budget. Unfortunately, it never really found an audience, lost money. These factors will not make the studios likely to pour so much money into such a personal film in the future.

Katie Holmes is also one of the leads, mercifully freed from the obligation to do that "Blanche DuBois with an attitude" that she had to do in The Gift. You'll be surprised by what a top-notch job she does here when given a character more suited to her, the film's most anchored role of a thoughtful, intelligent and very real student with whom Douglas has a brief relationship

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: 3.5 stars. Ebert 4/4, Berardinelli 3/4, Apollo 83/100.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 85% positive overall, but a much more impressive 89% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.7, Apollo users 75/100. These scores are consistent with the critical consensus.
  • With their dollars ... a noble failure. A $35 milion budget, but only $19 million in domestic revenues. This is the same type of movie, with the same type of box office performance, that Altman and Woody Allen make. But they hold the costs down and make them profitable.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B-. A pleasantly quirky movie with a quiet personal feel to it. Enough to reach out past the pure arthouse/indie crowd, but it obviously failed to reach a large mainstream audience.

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