Writer/director Stephen Chbosky delivered one of my favorite films of the decade with 2012’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”. His follow-up, “Wonder”, based on the book of the same name doesn’t have the same power as “Wallflower”, but still manages to be one of the most likable films in recent years. We don’t get many wholesome (non-animated) family films anymore. Probably because they aren’t usually a big box office draw. This is a shame because I feel not all family entertainment needs to have its’ own merchandising. What’s funny about that statement is that the central character in “Wonder” is a huge “Star Wars” fan and it plays a part in the narrative.
“Wonder” was inspired by the real-life August “Auggie” Pullman who was born with a facial deformity. Portrayed by Jacob Tremblay, Auggie has been home-schooled by his mother Isabel (Julia Roberts), but now she feels it’s time for him to interact with other kids, so she enrolled him at Beecher Prep. Auggie’s father Nate (Owen Wilson) isn’t as confident that their son is ready. Auggie knows he is different and because of this he spends much of his time wearing an astronauts helmet when outdoors to avoid being stared at.
We know that Auggie is going to have a tough time in school. Kids are mean and when someone looks different, sensitivity is not something that comes naturally. That however is the message in “Wonder”, that beauty is on the inside. “Auggie” is a beautiful person where it counts and we know it will only be a matter of time before his fellow students see it too.
What makes “Wonder” stand out from other films of its kind is that it takes the time to let the audience in on the lives of the people in Auggie’s life. We are taken through the different perspectives of his sister, Via (Izabela Vidovic), his first friend at school, Jack Will (Noah Jupe), and even Via’s best friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell) who we learn more about as the film goes on.
“Wonder” isn’t wonderful but it has an important and timeless message, and Chbosky is able to get it across without beating you over the head with it. “Wonder” also never tries to manipulate the audience into feeling something. This is a feel-good film, even when it makes you cry. Tremblay is a gifted young actor and he delivers another great performance here. If you are looking for something to make you feel good for two hours, you might want to check out “Wonder”.
By: Marc Ferman