Director: Stephen Chbosky
Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Owen Wilson, Julia Roberts, Izabela Vidovic, Noah Jupe, Mandy Patinkin, Daveed Diggs, Millie Davis
Plot: August "Auggie" Pullman is a young boy who's had 27 surgeries on his face since birth due to Treacher Collins Syndrome, and has been home schooled by his mother all his life. His parents finally decide to enter him into elementary school in fifth grade, where he will interact with other kids his age for the first time.
Review: Wonder is based on the best selling novel of the same name by RJ Palacio. The movie addresses the issue of looking past one's physical appearance and recognizing the human traits underneath. While this isn't exactly an unexplored subject as far as movies are concerned, Wonder is more than just a story about a deformed child trying to fit in the world, it's also about the people around him.
Auggie Pullman, facial handicap aside, is just your regular kid who loves his family, his dog, playing video games and Star Wars. But he has never been to school with other kids, until now. Naturally, the first day is tough as the other kids just can't help but stare at him. But over time, Auggie successfully makes friends with a couple of nice kids, though not without its own hurdles. It also helps that Auggie is very smart academically.
As mentioned, this film isn't just about Auggie. There are a few separate chapters that focus on the people around him, such as his older sister Via, who has lived in her brother's shadow for years; his best friend Jack Will, who isn't as forthcoming as he should be, but eventually learns to genuinely respect Auggie; and Miranda, Via's best friend who loves Auggie like her own sibling, but has drifted apart from Via because of a lie she told.
Director and co-writer Stephen Chbosky efficiently tells Auggie's story without a dull moment in sight. Every character has a reason for being there, and nearly every interaction and conversation has a purpose. More importantly, Chbosky makes it all feel genuine and engaging, and he never makes Auggie feel pitiful, even in moments when he breaks down because some kids were mean to him. There are also a few funny moments when Chbosky attempts to highlight Auggie's love for Star Wars by having a couple of characters randomly popping up in his imagination (a certain Wookie comes to mind).
The entire cast put in solid performances. Jacob Tremblay, the wonder kid from Room (no pun intended), once again scores as Auggie. While the makeup limits his facial expressions a bit, Tremblay still turns in an engaging performance. Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts do a great job as Auggie's parents, though they are less believable as a married couple. Izabela Vidovic is superb as Via, who loves her brother dearly but trying to make her own way in the world, and finding love in the process. Noah Jupe is excellent as Jack Will, who gives a mature performance for a kid his age. Also worth mentioning is Daveed Diggs as helpful English teacher Mr Browne and Mandy Patinkin as school principal Mr Tushman.
If Wonder has any flaw, it's in the final fifteen minutes or so when the filmmakers go out of their way to tie up every loose end before the uplifting final scene, which is somewhat inevitable, but I suppose the book did the same thing. I also would have preferred Miranda's strained friendship with Via receive its proper moment of resolution, but Chbosky inexplicably left it out and asks us to assume it instead.
All in all, Wonder is a well made and engaging feel good movie that the whole family can enjoy, and even learn from. (7.5/10)