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Wonder Movie Review

Wonder (2017) movie poster Wonder

Theatrical Release: November 17, 2017 / Running Time: 113 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Stephen Chbosky / Writers: Stephen Chbosky, Steven Conrad, Jack Thorne (screenplay); R.J. Palacio (novel)

Cast: Julia Roberts (Isabel Pullman), Owen Wilson (Nate Pullman), Jacob Tremblay (August "Auggie" Pullman), Izabela Vidovic (Via Pullman), Mandy Patinkin (Mr. Tushman), Daveed Diggs (Mr. Browne), Sonia Braga (Grans), Danielle Rose Russell (Miranda), Nadji Jeter (Justin), Noah Jupe (Jack Will), Bryce Gheisar (Julian), Millie Davis (Summer), Elle McKinnon (Charlotte)

 

Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, Wonder sees August "Auggie" Pullman (Room's Jacob Tremblay)
starting the fifth grade after years of home schooling. Being the new kid in school is tough for everyone, but Auggie has an added obstacle that makes him an even greater target for bullying and ostracization: he has a deformed face that draws stares and other uncomfortable reactions.

Auggie loves science and Star Wars. He dreams of being an astronaut, even wearing a space helmet at times to spare him the public's gawking. He is shown the ropes at his easygoing new private school by three classmates hand-picked by the avuncular principal (Mandy Patinkin): an unkind trust fund kid (Bryce Gheisar), a commercial actress (Elle McKinnon), and Jack Will (Noah Jupe), who emerges as Auggie's best friend.

After home schooling him for years, Isabel Pullman (Julia Roberts) brings her facially deformed son Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) to the fifth grade in "Wonder."

Wonder doesn't just present its tale from Auggie's point of view. It also takes time to give us the perspectives of Jack Will, Auggie's older sister Via (Izabela Vidovic), and her longtime best friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell), who has created distance after spending summer camp apart. We also get copious views of Auggie's home life with his former teacher Mom (Julia Roberts) and playful Dad (Owen Wilson).

That design of different perspectives is a little forced and the movie doesn't completely follow through with it. But Wonder nonetheless moves us with its depictions of family, childhood,
and the modern day trials of attending middle school. It may remind you of of similarly themed films, like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series or the dead-on-arrival knock-off Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life. But Wonder is more dramatic and less silly than these middling productions.

The premise seems a bit laughable as kind of a Mask Jr. And it does seem difficult to take a rare but real plight -- cranofacial disorders -- and use it as the force that drives a story. Needless to say, some people with disabilities have aired grievances with the film in advance and the book it adapts. However, The Perks of Being a Wallflower writer-director Stephen Chbosky, who shares screenplay credit with Steve Conrad (The Pursuit of Happyness, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) and UK TV veteran Jack Thorne, knows how to present an underdog tale without leaning on the crutches of manipulation.

Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell) snaps a Christmas selfie with the Pullman family (Owen Wilson, Julia Roberts, Jacob Tremblay, and Izabela Vidovic).

Wonder touches you repeatedly and not just in the ways you expect involving Auggie. But it almost never pulls punches to produce tears, instead treating its characters and viewers with respect and realism.

One fun surprise for Star Wars fans is that Auggie's love of the sci-fi franchise is not lost. Even though this movie hails from Lionsgate, Lucasfilm parent company Disney has allowed characters from the series to feature here, most prominently Chewbacca in Auggie's fantasy sequences. In an age where it seems movie studios are mostly only about promoting their own catalog of works (e.g. the Warner-only movie theater in It, the Warner-only movie calendar in Keanu), this element feels perfectly believable and not at all tinged with promotion.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Wonderstruck Coco Lady Bird The Man Who Invented Christmas
Owen Wilson: Drillbit Taylor Marley & Me | Julia Roberts: August: Osage County Secret in Their Eyes Money Monster
Jacob Tremblay: Room The Book of Henry
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life Diary of a Wimpy Kid Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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Reviewed November 17, 2017.



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