Wonder Boys is a fresh take on college life and the arrested development endemic to liberal arts universities. Michael Douglas steers the ship as a pothead professor trying to build a second novel on par with his initial success. In addition to a bad case of writer's block, he's gotten the head of the English department's wife (France McDormand) pregnant and feels threatened by a troubled yet brilliant student, James (Tobey Maguire). The plot—a middle-aged man attempting to renew his lease on life—is oddly matched to Douglas' actual one, with him engaged to 30–year-old actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, who's expecting a child later in the year.
The movie is original, with Douglas shaking off his usual creepiness for a full-bodied role. Maguire, fresh from The Cider House Rules, continues to demonstrate unusual amounts of talent.