Wonder Boys
(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)

I've had several people tell me that they won't see this movie because it stars Michael
Douglas.  Douglas is a very good actor but in many of his roles, he has played very unlikeable characters. That combined with recent events in his personal life seem to have turned some people off him. They are making a big mistake here. The Wonder Boys is the best movie I've seen this year so far.  It is the story of an English professor (Douglas) whose life is in disarray. His latest wife has just left him. He's having an affair with the Chancellor of the university (Francis McDormand). He is having trouble finishing his second novel, seven years after his first was a big success, and his editor (Robert Downey Jr.) is coming to town. And one of his students (Tobey Maguire) is suicidal. The events of the film cover two days in Douglas' life as it is destroyed and then rebuilt.  Douglas' character is at a turning point in his life and he gets more and more out of control as one event after another rocks his psyche. This movie could have become another There's Something About Mary which I thought was the most unfunny comedy ever. But here a combination of great writing, direction and acting keep this movie interesting, sweet, and funny from beginning to end. It never degenerates into slapstick hell even though there are lots of opportunities.  Like There's Something About Mary,  there is an annoying dog but it is dealt with much more satisfactorily here.  The Wonder Boys is, in fact, more drama than comedy. Michael Douglas is excellent and for once has a likeable character to play. The supporting cast, particularly McDormand, Downey and Maguire are great too.  I guess this will be Downey's last picture until he gets out on parole.  Rip Torn steals the few scenes he is in with his part as another writer who has none of Douglas' problems. The winter backgrounds of Pittsburgh provide just the right mood to match the action. The film has a nice pace and I found myself liking it right away and still liking it two hours later.  I hate to build up expectations too high for a film but this is one to see.