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    DVD Video - Reviews [Wonder Boys (Special Edition)]


    Wonder Boys (Special Edition)

    Release Date:

    Studio: Paramount
    Year: 2000
    Run Time: 112 minutes
    Rating: R
    Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Michael Douglas, Frances McDormand, Rip Torn, Katie Holmes, Tobey Maguire
    Directed by: Curtis Hanson
    Produced by: Lisa Grundy, Adam Schroeder, Curtis Hanson and Scott Rudin
    Written by: Steven Kloves
      Movie Summary: [Comedy]

        Michael Douglas plays the author of a wildly successful novel who is trying to write another but is struggling with the success of his past and the weight of his future.

    DVD Details
    • Widescreen: 2.35:1, Enhanced for 16X9 TVs, Color, 5.1 Dolby Digital, Surround, Additional Languages: French, Subtitles: English, Region 1
    • Trailer, Bob Dylan Music Video "Things Have Changed", Subtitled for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing"A Look Between the Page" Exclusive Cast & Crew Interviews Featuring Michael Douglas, Frances McDormand, Tobey Maguire, and Curtis Hanson; Pittsburgh Interactive Location Map with Commentary By Curtis Hanson; Singer/Songwriters of "Wonder Boys" with Direct Access Commentary by Curtis Hanson; Soundtrack Pictorial; "Bob Dylan" Featurette
    See Full Disc Details...

    Reviewer: Rob Smentek


            H ollywood never quite got a grasp on its portrayal of writers. Usually authors are portrayed as intellectual and wise sages, or hipster “tortured” artists, and even sometimes as rock-star type celebrities. The fact of the matter is that most writers don’t win the Pulitzer or achieve Stephen King-type popularity. Curtis Hanson’s Wonder Boys is the first depiction of an author that is based in any type of reality.

    Director Curtis Hanson is quickly establishing a name for himself as a director who can film any book. His adaptation of James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential was a deft, exciting thriller that was acclaimed by critics and audiences alike. Somehow Hanson managed to take the novel’s labyrinthine plot, and turn it into a coherent, well-structured movie that not only preserved the integrity of Ellroy’s novel, but also maintained the book’s signature mood and atmosphere. L.A. Confidential made a star of Russell Crowe and earned Kim Basinger an academy award. Not bad for a director who made the weak 1990’s suburban horror movie, Hand That Rocks the Cradle.

    Wonder Boys is Hanson’s follow-up to his acclaimed detective film. Michael Douglas portrays Grady Tripp, a one-time acclaimed author who now makes his living teaching writing to college students. Like a magician with no tricks left, Tripp is desperate. His editor, played by the always-manic Robert Downey Jr., is in town to read his latest opus, which is incomplete and totaling more than 2000 pages. Tripp’s (second? third?) wife has left him, and his mistress (the always great Frances McDormand [Fargo]) is pregnant. Not only is she pregnant, but she happens to be married to Grady’s boss. To further complicate matters, Tripp interrupts his prize student’s suicide, only to later be involved in the murder of his boss’ dog. Grady Tripp is having what we call a bad weekend.

    The smug, cocksure attitude that has overpowered Michael Douglas’ roles in recent years is completely absent. In fact, Douglas has re-defined his career with Grady Tripp. Tripp is a pathetic character, and Douglas isn’t afraid to slum it a bit with the character. He is a self-medicating loser struggling to live up to the expectations of himself and others. The long-awaited follow-up to his acclaimed novel, Arsonist’s Daughter, is an overblown and didactic bore. His marriages have all been failures, and even his affair is crumbling apart. The brilliant Frances McDormand, one of Hollywood’s most underrated comic actresses, teeters between her love for Tripp and utter disgust. She loves the man he could be, but is tired of his lack of commitment and loyalty towards anything.

    It isn’t until Tripp gets to know James, his deeply troubled and deeply talented student, that he is able to assess his own life. James is played by Tobey McGuire, who is growing into a great young actor. Also good is the eternally recovering addict Robert Downey as Tripp’s gay and somewhat obnoxious editor. The cast is first rate and Hanson’s direction is fluid and dramatic. He weaves his way through the complex interaction between the characters without making things convoluted. Screenwriter Steve Kloves deserves a lot of credit for turning Michael Chambon’s dense novel into a uncluttered and quick paced movie. It is a top-rate effort all around.

    The DVD presentation of Wonder Boys is well above average. While not packed with a huge amount of extras, the ones that are provided are interesting and fun. The standard cast and crew interviews are included, as is the theatrical trailer. Like the guided tour through late-40’s LA that was included on the L.A. Confidential disc, there is an interactive map through lovely, scenic… PITTSBURGH. Hanson’s commentary is funny and informative. It’s certainly clear that Hanson is a big fan of the Wonder Boys book. Even more fascinating is the Songs of Wonder Boys featurette with commentary by Hanson. Music is a very important aspect to the film, with a pretty-great classic rock soundtrack. Hanson discusses his soundtrack choices, and provides a little insight to the reason of their inclusion. Songsmith Bob Dylan contributed a new song written just for the film, the Academy Award winning Things Have Changed. The music video is included on the DVD. However, it would have been nice to have some input from novelist Michael Chambon. A commentary by him would have made an interesting compare/contrast between the movie and the source material.

    The film’s transfer is excellent, with enhanced letterboxing (anamorphic) for new the new widescreen TVs. The audio is also very good, presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. This makes the film’s soundtrack stick out exceptionally.

    Before the film you may be alarmed to see a “this movie has been formatted for content” notice. Apparently, a joke that offended someone was removed shortly before the video’s production. It isn’t missed. Wonder Boys is a phenomenal and very funny film that may make us all appreciate the struggles of our favorite authors a little more.


    No screenshots at this time.

    Individual Ratings
    Video Audio Content Movie
    7 7 7 8.5
    Ratings Based on Scale of 1 - 10 (10 being Best)

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