Wonder Movie Review
“Wonder” is based on a popular book by the same name that deals with a young boy with a severely deformed face. Due to some genetic trait, the youngster was born with many medial issues and has undergone 27 surgeries to make him inch toward being normal. He has a close-knit family, with a loving mother and father a slightly older sister. His world is about to radically change, because mom will no longer home-school the boy and he will attend fifth grade with all other kids his age. It will be a world of ‘Wonder’.
Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) is the boy with a medically-corrected face and a huge heart. Isabel (Julia Roberts) is his mom and will no longer put her life on hold to home-school Auggie. She was close to getting a Master’s degree and wants to pursue that once more. His dad, Nate (Owen Wilson) is always very supportive, but he knows to let mom have her way. His sister Olivia (Izabela Vidovic) – called Via – is about to start high school. So, there are many changes in the Pullman household.
Auggie is very shy and awkward with people that he meets. They usually stare at him because of his face, and knows it make them uncomfortable. He tries to downplay that it makes him feel a little weird about himself, because he wants to expand his world. He normally loves to run around with a space helmet and pretend he is an astronaut, because that makes him feel better. But when he goes to school, he will need to fend for himself. He meets the principal named Mr. Tushman (Mandy Patinkin). There is also a kid in his class that seems to like him named Jack Will (Noah Jupe). But there will also be some people there who will snub Auggie and some who will bully him.
The movie follows the school year for Auggie and for Via. They both have some challenges, but then they both meet some new good friends. For Auggie, there is the new routine of a middle-school, and for Via it is learning to branch out into theater and a new romance. Their time in school has its ups and downs, but with help from mom and dad, they seem to work out the issues. There is a school play, a science fair, an overnight field trip – all the usual things to school-age kids. The most troubling event that happens is when the family dog gets ill.
Each of the main characters gets a little mini-chapter in the movie, where they get to tell more of what they think of the whole thing. It works out ok for most of the characters, even when it retreads a couple of scenes over and over (from a different perspective). There is no great revelation, other than to choose to ‘be kind’. There are some valiant attempts to give this movie more meaning than just a different type of kid that goes to a new school.
But this resembles the 1985 movie “Mask” which was a true story of a young boy with a similar problem. That movie did a good job to make an awkward kid feel ok about a facial deformity. It turned out to be very popular and won quite a few awards. So perhaps “Wonder” is destined to join in that exclusive club. But it will all depend on the acting and the story. In this case, the acting is superb, but the story is very ho-hum.
Jacob Tremblay and Noah Jupe (in a smaller role) are both incredibly good in their roles. Tremblay has the added weight of facial prosthetics to give him the look of Auggie. But they are terrific in this movie and make a very good impression. Izabela Vidovic as Via also does a great job to play the sister that tends to be ignored by mom and dad always giving time to the younger, sicker brother. Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson do a fine job as the mom and dad, but their story is not one that is front and center. Mandy Patinkin plays his role like a favorite uncle at a family reunion.
The biggest issue is that there is not all that much going on. The movie stretches over a year period, but the characters do not seem to grow at all. There is no big hurdle to get over, nor any major issue to tackle. It is all just there, going on from one day to the next. The level of bullying is not all that major, and the difficulties adjusting to the new school come and go quickly. So there is not any tension built up or any big outcome that you look forward to…
Directed by: Stephen Chbosky
Screenplay by: Jack Thorne, Steve Conrad, Stephen Chbosky
Based on novel: Wonder (by R.J. Palacio)
Starring: Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Jacob Tremblay, Noah Jupe, Izabela Vidovic, Mandy Patinkin
Length: 113 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements including bullying, and some mild language