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Wonder boys

Threat advisory: Severe - Severe risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Talk about a weekend you'll never forget...

An unfinished novel, a stolen car, a murdered pet, an unstable student, a fed up wife, a pregnant lover - it's safe to say that Professor Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas) has a number of issues to deal with this weekend.

Grady is a 50-ish English professor who hasn't had a thing published in years - not since he wrote his award-winning great American novel seven years ago. It's hardly surprising, then, that his university's annual literary Festival fills the former wonder boy with more than his usual quota of self doubt and anxiety. This Festival weekend, however, proves even worse than he could have imagined as he finds himself reeling from one misadventure to another in the company of a new wonder boy, James Leer (Tobey Maguire). He's Grady's most gifted writing student. He's also a fluent liar whose peculiar behaviour launches the professor on a picaresque odyssey of self discovery.

Also starring Frances Mcdormand as Chancellor Sara Gaskell, Robert Downey Junior as Terry Crabtree, Katie Holmes as Hannah Green, Richard Thomas as Walter Gaskell, Rip Torn as Quentin "Q" Morewood, Philip Bosco as Hank Winters, Jane Adams as Oola, Richard Knox as Vernon Hardapple and Michael Cavaias as Miss Sloviak/Tony. Written by Steven Kloves from the novel by Michael Chabon, directed by Curtis Hanson.

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Ha, ha, Ha!

Wonder boys is one of the funniest films I have seen in a very long time. The humour rises above slapstick USA comedy [sic] into the realms of real life, stories so bizarre that no-one could possibly imagine them, they have to be true. Michael is a grumpy old fart, Tobey is a depressive teen, Robert is a bent New Yorker and and Frances is a power woman. Put those four people together for a weekend and anything is likely to happen. The worst is likely to happen. The worst does happen. The film is so well-balanced that if you take out any one character the rest fall down like a pack of cards. Every one of them contributes to the tribulations of all the others, like a rogue chromosome in your genes.

The best humour comes from the failure of these four people to live their lives. They are where they are simply because that is where they have ended up. They're like the little bits of polystyrene that are packed around your new DVD player and end up in all sorts of strange places around your house. When you try to clean them up they generate random bursts of static electricity and cling to everything they touch. One of them always ends up under the sofa.

If you're an observer of life, people and their foibles then Wonder boys will satisfy that voyeuristic urge which just won't go away. If you simply happen to like well-made films, it will take care of you as well. See it, hear it: enjoy it.

Security censorship classification

M (Drug use, low level violence)

Surveillance time

113 minutes (1:53 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 3 August 2000
VHS retail: 10 July 2002

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