Wonder Boys


Generally favorable reviews - based on 36 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 28 out of 36
  2. Negative: 0 out of 36

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Critic Reviews

  1. 100
    The most accurate movie about campus life that I can remember.
  2. Reviewed by: John Hartl
    A giddy delight, with Michael Douglas delivering what may be the most relaxed and inventive performance of his career, and Tobey Maguire and Robert Downey Jr. trailing not far behind.
  3. 100
    One of the most joyous, diverting and original mainstream American movies in years.
  4. Reviewed by: Jay Carr
    A sweet screenful of quirky chaos.
  5. A handsomely mounted, graceful production that is well-played across the board.
  6. Reviewed by: Robert Horton
    Well-crafted scenes that carry a bracingly grown-up tang: unhurried, played in a low key, with plenty of time to savor the details of character and place.
  7. 90
    Downey, who radiates more energy doing nothing discernible than most other actors do when they let it all hang out, takes the film to another level.
  8. Reviewed by: Emanuel Levy
    Massively inventive, Wonder Boys is spiked with fresh, perverse humor that flows naturally from the straight-faced playing.
  9. The first more-than-halfway-decent movie of a new millennium.
  10. An often-wondrous comedy, just as rich and surprising as "L.A. Confidential" but considerably less dark.
  11. A terrific movie about middle-age malaise and a comedy of unusual wit and drollness.
  12. 82
    This is certainly the best studio movie of the new year to date, and Douglas might even be remembered at next year's Oscars.
  13. The casting of Michael Douglas against type as an over-the-hill novelist and writing professor is the sort of clever move that wins undeserved Oscars.
  14. Rolling Stone
    Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Michael Douglas digs deep and delivers one of his best performances in Wonder Boys -- a comic dazzler of roguish wit and touching gravity that is driven by characters, not jokes.
  15. Maguire and Douglas are extraordinary (though Douglas feels a little old for his role, which seems to have been written for a man in his early 40s); even Downey Jr. delivers a sharp, understated performance.
  16. 80
    With a cast this terrific and a story this rich and wry, Wonder Boys really can't miss, even if it thumps to an underwhelming and moralistic ending that undoes a fair amount of its goodwill.
  17. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    (Douglas) is a superb (and underused) comic actor, one who knows that the secret of being funny is never begging for a laugh.
  18. 75
    See Wonder Boys for the acting, particularly McDormand and Maguire, but use the goofy moments to get popcorn refills.
  19. 75
    A wonderfully rumpled, loose comedy about the paralyzing fear of failure.
  20. The smartest movie to come out this year, and it could hardly be better cast.
  21. 75
    With a wistful look at the wages of ambition and the failure of promise, Wonder Boys finally celebrates self-awareness, ending on a muted, quietly moving note of triumph.
  22. Except for moments of labored symbolism and a too cozy ending, the movie stays sharply focused on its well-chosen targets.
  23. Among the movie's oddball treats are Robert Downey Jr. as Grady's flamboyant editor and Rip Torn as a pedantic author and sermonizer known only as Q.
  24. Lovely performances from McDormand, Downey and Richard Knox, who looks uncommonly like Little Richard, as a bar owner named Vernon Hardapple.
  25. 70
    It's striking on several counts.
  26. Plenty of fun while it lasts, but its aftereffects are mighty fleeting.
  27. Reviewed by: Ernest Hardy
    For those seeking even a little adventurousness in their filmgoing experiences, the movie will wear thin very quickly.
  28. Sweet, flaky, and more than a little aimless.
  29. The sentimentality overtakes Wonder Boys when, in the last half hour, it tries to make nice with its characters and fashion a deep message from a trivial story.
  30. As detached and unfocused as a college pothead. And about as much fun.
  31. While the story takes some clever turns, its psychology is far from convincing and its momentum flags long before the finale.
  32. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    The pulse of Curtis Hanson's direction is lethargic; the comic bits are so slack and deadpan you could mistake the film for an earnest drama--an Afterschool Special for troubled kids and their pooped parents.
  33. The sad truth is that Wonder Boys is little more than a sentimentalized encomium to the disheveled, childish life it ascribes to writers.
  34. With so much going for it, how could the movie be such a dud?

Awards & Rankings

User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 40 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 10
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 10
  3. Negative: 2 out of 10
  1. TedB.
    Aug 27, 2001
    Three points for the score. The few good moments in this film can't compensate for the stereotypical "writers" and "academics"---- Did Three points for the score. The few good moments in this film can't compensate for the stereotypical "writers" and "academics"---- Did nobody in Hollywood actually GO to college? Full Review »