Wonder Boys

Rated 4.0 A once-promising writer (Michael Douglas), frittering around with his next novel while teaching creative writing in college, deals with a series of crises involving his pregnant lover (Frances McDormand), his flaky editor (Robert Downey Jr.) and a gloomy student (Tobey Maguire) who just may be a better writer than he is. Writer Steven Kloves and director Curtis Hanson turn Michael Chabon’s novel into a quirky goofball pleasure. The film has a shaggy-dog amiability, thanks in large part to Hanson’s convivial, unhurried pacing and (especially) the deadpan comic performance of Douglas, as comfortable as an old shoe. Katie Holmes is intelligent and fetching as a student with a crush on Douglas, but in a refreshing change of pace for Hollywood, he is attracted to a woman closer to his own age.