Reviewed by: Ryan McLelland

I knew next to absolutely nothing walking in to see Wonder. I had seen the trailer for it once and the only thought I had was, “Maybe I should buy the book for my wife” since Wonder is based on a book and my wife is a voracious reader. When I went home I saw that the book was a Young Adult book so I decided to just get her something else instead. I had arrived early to the mall to meet a friend to see a completely different film and since I had time to waste, I looked at the showtimes to see what was playing. Wonder was starting at that exact moment so I bought the ticket and went inside. It was the best decision I ever made. From the cast to the scripting to the direction, Wonder was a complete joy from beginning to end. It tries to tug on the heartstrings a bunch but I fell right in for the sappiness. The film is fun, fresh, and really speaks to how anyone can be an outsider no matter who they are or what they look like. There’s a good moral here and even though this is a Young Adult book/movie it has lessons that both kids and adults can learn from.

The movie starts off with a young man with a facial deformity named Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) prepping to go to school for the first time. Thus far Auggie has been homeschooled by his caring mother Isabel (Julia Roberts) who dotes on him constantly. Isabel knows how mean the world is especially to a kid like Auggie who has a big heart, is very smart, but is never given a chance because of the way he looks. Unfortunately Isabel has taken Auggie as far as she can take him and it is time for him start 5th grade at a private school. Auggie usually walks the streets with an astronaut helmet so no one can see his face. He gets some looks, but nothing near what he would get without the helmet on.

So the movie follows Auggie’s journey as he starts Beecher Prep in a school where everyone hates him off the bat because he looks different. Truly the only people who really bother to pay attention to Auggie are his bullies which includes super jerkface Julian (Bryce Gheisar) who loves to mock Auggie for his looks. Auggie almost enjoys just being left alone. He’s a good kid who knows that everyone judges him based solely on his looks. He understands this is probably how it is going to be for the rest of his life. He understands that everyone sees him and yet he is completely invisible. The only support system Auggie truly has is the school’s administrator Mr. Tushman (Mandy Patinkin), his homeroom teacher Mr. Browne (Daveed Diggs), Isabel, his father Nate (Owen Wilson), and his older sister Via (Izabela Vidovic).

As the movie started off I basically saw the movie for what it was: a more kid friendly version of Peter Bogdanovich’s classic 80’s film Mask. Eric Stoltz’s Rocky Dennis basically went through the same thing except his home life was a tad more biker white trashy. Rocky went to school, people saw his deformed face, and made assumptions. Eventually Rocky wins people over with his knowledge and quick wit. So I watch Wonder and as the film went on I said, “Yup. That’s the movie.”

And then the weirdest thing happened. Suddenly the story went off Auggie and moved to his sister Via. Via only has one friend in Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell) but as Via and Miranda moved up a grade and into a new school,  Via finds herself with no friends as Miranda is now too cool for her. Via finds herself alone and uncomfortable, really feeling like she is unable to fit in. Then she goes home every day where her mother and father dotes all over her little brother and pay no attention to her. At all. You have a brother who is affected by the way he looks, but then you have a sister who is also affected and perhaps even more so. She feels totally alone no matter where she is.  It sets up an interesting dynamic.

The movie continues that way as it will also follow characters like Miranda or a boy who befriends Auggie named Jack (Noah Jupe).  Jack seems like a great kid and friend to Auggie but we come to find out he talks crap behind Auggie’s back (which Auggie unfortunately overhears). We don’t just meet these characters but we get a glimpse into their lives to see what is going on with them and why they are acting the way they are acting. There’s a great cause and effect going on. It’s the rare movie that helps better explain the actions of the characters by showing where these decisions stem from.

Wonder is the kind of film that is built to play on your emotions. Some may roll their eyes at this and see that the film as trying to be manipulative toward its audience. I didn’t see it that way. I actually sat in the movie theater and cried several times. I bought the movie hook, line, and sinker. I was really amazed at how well the story was told, how great the acting was, how fun the movie was, and how emotional the journey of these characters could be. Jacob Tremblay had already shown off his acting chops when he starred with Brie Larson in Room, but he is even more outstanding here. That’s an accomplishment as he is under quite a bit of prosthetics. I thought Izabela Vidovic as Auggie’s sister Via was outstanding. Her acting was nothing short of superb and I really felt her character’s hurt, anguish, and pain. The movie is about how love and friendship affect your world. Both Auggie and Via need to come to grips with having no support system outside the home but in a different way. It’s the same journey but masterfully told.

I walked out of this film with a huge smile on my face. I thought the performances by the child actors really blew Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson out of the water. Quite an accomplishment. The film was so good that I really can’t wait to read the book and see this movie again. I liked it that much. If you have children aged 9 and up it may be the perfect movie to watch with them as well. It really could teach the importance of acceptance and why you don’t judge a book by its cover.


Follow us on Twitter:
Follow us on Instagram:
Follow us on Facebook:
Follow us on Twitch:
Click here to follow us on YouTube.