“Wonder Boys,” one of the most underrated films of 2000, makes its entrance into the DVD universe with little fanfare. The disc contains the same clever and engrossing film that appeared in theaters, but it offers little else.
Professor Grady Tripp (a enjoyably scruffy and constantly disheveled Michael Douglas) is trying to balance his failing marriage, his lover (Frances McDormand), a disturbed but brilliant student (Tobey Maguire), a stolen car and the disposal of a dead dog”s body. Throw in an unfinished and long awaited novel and an almost comical marijuana habit, and it”s no surprise that Tripp”s life is an increasingly more stressful mess. There is also an excellent supporting cast, including hilarious performances by Robert Downey, Jr. as Tripp”s unpredictable and desperate editor, and Rip Torn as a successful and arrogant writer.
The atmosphere of the film, with its cold, rainy setting and backdrops of sleepy residential streets and university buildings, is a unique and evocative set of images. The amazing soundtrack completes the almost tangible quality of the movie, including classic songs by John Lennon, Van Morrison, Clarence Carter, Buffalo Springfield and a plethora of Bob Dylan songs, including this year”s Oscar winner “Things Have Changed.”
The DVD is decent, but not outstanding. The film is presented in widescreen (pan and scan is the tool of Satan), and the picture and sound quality is excellent. There are some interesting interviews with director Curtis Hanson (“L.A. Confidential”) that give some insight into the making of the film and the scouting of the locations.
Exploring the city of Pittsburgh on an interactive map, Hanson adds interesting anecdotes and history to the once booming industrial zone. From the numerous steel bridges to Carnegie Mellon University, Hanson shares a geniuine attraction and knowledge of the city so closely tied with the lives and the characters of “Wonder Boys.”
Bob Dylan”s music video for “Things Have Changed” is also on the disc, which is a treat since Dylan is not a regular on MTV. However, the things that would have made this DVD spectacular are absent there aren”t any deleted scenes or screen tests, nor does Hanson dish up a commentary track, features that have made other releases worth the extra money for the DVD.
Nevertheless, the enhanced picture quality and the fact that it is just a damn good movie makes “Wonder Boys” a success.