Wonder is one of those movies that’s given countless opportunities to settle for easy emotional manipulation. While its not without its corny, cliché moments, the filmmakers ultimately turn in a sincere picture that avoids cheap shots. Some audiences might go into this picture expecting to have inspiration shoved down their throats. However, this is a crowd pleaser in the purist sense with humble life messages, identifiable characters, and a surprisingly genuine nature. The film’s underlying message is to not judge a person based on their looks. Much like its protagonist, Wonder exceeds expectations and proves to be more than what it seems.
Based on the beloved novel by R.J. Palacio, the film follows young Auggie Pullman, played by Jacob Tremblay. Auggie’s an average boy who loves Star Wars and Minecraft, but what sets him apart from everyone else is that he was born with Treacher Collins syndrome. Due to his facial deformity, Auggie often hides under a space helmet and spends the first several years of his life cooped up at home. His parents, wonderfully played by Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, eventually decide that its time for Auggie to start attending a real school. At first, most of his classmates either ignore him or make mean comments. In time, however, Auggie begins to find a couple friends in a boy named Jack Will (Noah Jupe) and a girl named Summer (Millie Davis).
Tremblay gave one of the best juvenile performances ever in Room. He delivers another marvelous acting feat here, managing to emote a wide array of emotions even when hidden under all that makeup. Thanks to his effective performance, as well as the smart screenplay, Wonder draws comparison to other hopeful films like Mask and The Elephant Man. While the movie revolves around Auggie, it’s far from a one-person show. In a refreshing turn, it puts almost as much emphasis on the other people in his life.
Izabela Vidovic turns in strong work as Auggie’s sister, who loves her brother and is always supportive of him. Since Auggie is usually the center of attention, though, she can’t help but feel neglected most of the time. Danielle Rose Russell is also quite good as her best friend, who’s given much more development than initially anticipated. Even a schoolyard bully named Julian (Bryce Gheisar) isn’t reduced to a one-note stereotype. While he’s certainly not the nicest kid, we can definitely imagine how somebody like him could exist, especially in an age of cyber bullying.
This film was directed and co-written by Stephen Chbosky, who previously brought us The Perks of Being a Wallflower, both the film and the original novel. He’s a talent who truly understands what its like to be young and his wisdom shines through all of the characters here. Granted, since this is a family-friendly picture, none of the kids ever swear or make sex jokes like they typically would in real life. Yet, their insecurities, passions, and all around humanity couldn’t be more honest. With its positive role models and heartfelt morals, Wonder is a hard movie not to enjoy.