Wonder was okay. I did not love it as much as I thought I would. I am usually a sucker for stories about kids and their lives. Wonder just did not connect with me the way I anticipated.
Now, I did enjoy the film. It is good. I am going to give it a positive review, but I really expected to come out of the film with more enthusiasm.
After being home schooled by his mom Isabel (Julia Roberts), Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) is set to start 5th grade at a real school. However, Auggie knew that he would be facing major obstacles since he was born with facial differences that had required multiple plastic surgeries. Auggie struggled with bullies and other children who could not see past his deformity.
We got several other characters in the film that received some focus along the way. Auggie’s sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) felt overlooked by her parents constant attention to Auggie, and she, for some unknown reason, had her best friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell) stop being her friend after returning from summer camp. Another fifth grader Jack Will (Noah Jupe) befriended Auggie only to say something cruel within earshot of his friend. Another student, adult suck up Julian (Bryce Gheisar) became the bully who targeted Auggie, calling him a freak.
What I liked. Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson (who played Auggie’s dad, Nate) had a great relationship and were wonderful with their son. I thought Owen Wilson was awesome here and I found him to the most real of all the characters in the film. The relationship with Via was not as solid as they seemed to take for granted their daughter. That story was particularly strong and I appreciated how Via never went full crazed teenager. She always showed a sweetness to her brother.
There were some very sweet scenes in Wonder. In fact, some of the scenes may have been too sweet. I do like how the movie shines a light on a major problem we have at schools today. The bullying problem is terrible and very few people can be as cruel as kids can be, some times without even meaning to.
I thought Noah Jupe, who had just recently been one few good things in the movie Suburbicon, was very strong as Auggie’s friend with two first names, Jack Will. Noah carried himself very well and showed quite a range of emotion as he struggled to understand why Auggie had ended their friendship.
I think the problem I had with Wonder was that I just did not buy a lot of what happened. I work at a school and the thought that the principal Mr. Tushman (Mandy Patinkin) would send a kid like Julian, along with Jack Will and Charlotte (Elle McKinnon with a really odd character), to take Auggie on a tour of the school. There is no way that someone like Julian, who was so cruel to Auggie, would have fooled everyone as much as he did. Kids would have ratted this guy out by now. The whole set up felt forced and manipulated.
There were too many situations like this in Wonder that felt like it was trying to manipulate the emotions of the audience, dealing way too much in melodrama than in real life experiences.
I am also going to say something unpopular here, but I feel as if this was not the greatest of performances from Jacob Tremblay. I love the young actor and he made me cry with his work in Room and in Book of Henry, but here I found Auggie to be a bit of a screaming brat at times. I understand why, but I would have liked a little more subtlety in his performance. Perhaps the prosthetics made it difficult to bring the typically amazing work for the young actor. I’m sure he did his best, but there was just something that did not work for me.
Yes the movie has a great message of acceptance and kindness in the face of hatred and cruelty, and the film has a definite uplifting feel to it, covered with a gloss of sugar like some kind of breakfast cereal. I just was waiting for something more impactful than what I got. I am sure that many people will go to Wonder and enjoy it fully, most likely requiring some tissues (That’s you, Ambarlee). It is a sweet family film, but you should not expect too much.