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March 06, 2000 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2000-03-06

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rnardo's 'Buddha'
1 e Four Noble Truths? Chris Isaak
in the male lead? Keanu Reeves as
Siddartha Gautama? Whoa! Check
out "Little Buddha" screening in the
Michigan Theater at 7 p.m.
michigandaily.com /arts


MARCH 6, 2000


Tidy ending weakens otherwise
By Matthew Barrett
Daily Film Editor




Curtis Hanson's
follow-up to


Confidential," considered by many
to be one of the finest films of the
' , is "Wonder Boys," a weekend-
to look into the life of Grady Tripp
(Michael Douglas), a college profes-

Grade: B -
A* rwood, Quality 1
& Showcase
S s
his now 2000 plus l

sor with big-
time problems.
Grady doesn't
seem to meet the
criteria of your
typical English
125 instructor as
he cheats on his
wife (with Sara,
the wife of the
school's dean)
and smokes
weed on a daily
basis In addi-
tion, Grady is
hard at work on
page follow-up to

she's pregnant with his child. Things.
are further complicated when James
enters the mix and pops Poe, the
dean's dog, with a couple in the
chest. The pooch is soon deposited
into the trunk of Grady's car and so
our weekend begins.
For the most part, Hanson handles
the action well and once again bene-
fits from a stellar cast. Each of these
actors seems just right for the part,
so much so that it's hard to picture
anyone else as the characters.
Douglas is on the mark as Grady and
Maguire has the tortured artist thing
down with James. McDormand is
equally up to the task, in her first
significant role since winning an
Oscar for her performance in
"Fargo." Also appearing are Robert
Downey Jr. (on parole for the part?)
as Terry Crabtree, Grady's editor,
and Katie Holmes as Hannah Green,
a student of Grady's who lives in his
house and has her eye on him.
One of the main strengths of
"Wonder Boys" is the way that
Hanson allows the story to slewly
develop in front of our eyes. Each
character feels set in their own way
of doing things, and it seems that
Grady must be the leader of a move-
ment of change, something he is
very reluctant to do.

Perhaps this is why the last 20
minutes of "Wonder Boys" kill much
of what the film had going for it.
The entire ending feels fake, overly
sentimental and as if it were deliv-
ered to us in a neat little package
with a bow. These are all imperfect
people, so to the give them a tidy
conclusion just doesn't feel right.
The film could also have done with-
out Grady calling James. "wonder
boy," seeing as the film's title speaks
for itself and is understood even if
it's not heard. "Wonder Boys" is
enjoyable and interesting to watch
but is unable to overcome its final
act and unable to hold a candle to
Hanson's previous effort.

a hit book that he wrote years ago.
With no end in sight to his beast of a
book, his editor in town looking for
tlnanuscript and his wife leaving
him for good that morning, it's safe
to say that Grady Tripp is at a cross-

A talented cast leads "Wonder Boys," Including Rip Tom, Robert Downey Jr., Katie Holmes, Tobey Maguire and Michael Douglas,
Grady's companion for much of nizes the writing talent that James nection between Grady and James
the weekend is his student, James possesses and knows in his heart that and sets up the action for the remain-
Leer (Tobey Maguire). James is the someday soon the pupil will surpass der of the film. We're soon jettisoned
outcast of his English class due to his the teacher. to a party at the dean's house, where
distant personality and the oddball The film kicks off with a class- Grady slips off with Sara (Frances
stories that he writes. Grady recog- room scene that establishes the con- McDormand) only to find out that

Qourtesy of Paramount Pictures
Michael Douglas.-stars as Grady Tripp.

Confusing script plays too many 'Games'

By Erin Podolsky
.Arts Writer
Reindeer Games" is one of those
unfortunate films that has missed its
window of opportunity - and, worse yet,
missed it in more ways than one.
Originally scheduled for a Christmas
'999 release, a date infinitely more
appropriate to the movie's content than
where it now resides, it was moved for

Grade: C
At Quality 16
and Showcase
a /

reasons known
only to Swami
Weinstein and the
Miramax market-
ing department.
So here it is, in all
its thriller glory,
released past its
prime like an
overcooked pot
roast, charred on
the outside, still
raw on the inside

stands, "Reindeer Games" shifts wildly
between by-the-book thrill-ride and edgy
satire of a genre that Frankenheimer has
devoted much of his career to chroni-
cling, from the sparklingly tragic, sar-
donic "The Manchurian Candidate," still
as fresh today as it was nearly 30 years
ago, to 1997's post-traumatic Cold War
syndrome tale "Ronin." The extremes
that it finds itself caught up in are too
much for its small-town, small-character
feel, and there are consequences to be
had with such folly.
The basic plot is something of a no-
brainer, which might explain why
Kruger and company were so floored by
their own twisty brilliance. In a confer-
ence room somewhere, these guys are
sitting around having a good laugh at just
how smart they are, self-congratulatory
cigars and backslaps all around. Boys,
please stop partying. Mr. Kruger, you
have now had three screenplays pro-
duced, and all three have included Big
Fat Surprise Twist Endings. I fear for
what you have in store with "Texas
Rangers" but not so much as I fear hav-
ing to watch your other movies a second
time through.

Where was I? Oh yes, the story. Ben
Affleck plays Rudy, a car thief who was-
n't so good at thieving and so ended up
in the clink for a few years. He is best
buddies with cellmate Nick (James
Frain), although dropping the soap
seems to be kept entirely off-screen.
Nick is set to meet his prison pen pal
girlfriend Ashley (Charlize Theron)
when he and Rudy are conveniently
paroled at the same time despite the fact
they apparently didn't know each other
before playing in the pokey and aren't in
for the same crime. Also conveniently,
Nick gets shanked in the cafeteria during
a this-food-sucks riot. Three guesses as
to what Rudy does when he gets out and
sees Ashley, beautiful, blond and wait-
ing, alone outside the prison walls.
"Reindeer Games" is a highly conve-
nient movie. Conveniently so.
So now Rudy-pretending-to-be-Nick
is banging Ashley's brains out
(Attention, testosteronians! You must
weigh your options carefully: Refuse to
suffer through "Reindeer Games," or go
nobly to see Theron in her birthday suit?)
in a seedy motel five minutes after meet-
ing her and, of course, failing to consid-

er the ramifications of this little identity
swap. If he'd had one moral fiber in his
body, though, the rest of the film could
not have happened, and so he continues
to get some very pleasant non-prison sex
until Ashley's brother, Gabriel (Gary
Sinise, in previously unattempted
scenery-chewing glory), shows up.
Gabriel is a gun-runner trucked tired of
logging miles, so he decides he's going
to throw over a casino with Nick's help.
Of course, this particular Nick has no
idea what Gabriel is talking about, so the
rest of the film is devoted to Rudy alter-
nately trying to convince Gabriel and his
crew of merry men that he isn't Nick
after all, trying half-heartedly to escape
(he has many opportunities but seems to
pass them all up for some unknown rea-
son other than the film's running time),
or thinking on his feet about how to dupe
Gabriel into thinking he is Nick and
knows the casino like the back of his
'hand. All this and he has to find time to
shoehorn the announcement to no one in
particular, "Never put a car thief behind
the wheel!" I presume he says this in pri-
vate because he knows that an audience
See GAMES, Page 8A

Planning Trips for Generations

X, Y, andZ.

and an unpleasant
k experience for all
Not that I fault director John
Frankenheimer for his efforts here, now;
he made his mistake long ago, way back
in the script stage, when somebody
should have stepped up and made a deci-
sion about the material as written by
Miramax poster-boy Ehren Kruger
("Scream 3," the upcoming Miramax
-tem tater-tot "Texas Rangers"). As it

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