With Jacob Tremblay as Auggie – “WONDER” bring us the sweet story based on the New York Times bestseller by R.J. Palacio. We get to know Auggie slowly during the film and find out about his ongoing life, like his twenty-seven surgeries on his face, how he keeps his hospital bracelets as souvenirs and how his supportive parents Isabel (Julia Roberts), and Nate (Owen Wilson) have decided to send him to school for the first time ever. See until now, Auggie has been home-schooled by Isabel, but it’s 5th grade and time for “real” school. While his face is without a doubt deformed, he is in no way as seriously damaged as say John Merrick – the famous The Elephant Man, or Rocky Dennis – the young man in Mask, (portrayed so wonderfully by Eric Stoltz), but we know this can’t be an easy decision for anyone involved. Auggie’s older sister Via (Izabela Vidovic), also carries a burden that few understand and along with her childhood friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell) they have their own vignette-type sequences where their stories are told. Vidovic is also probably the best casting of the film and this is very much her story as well.
The film kicks into gear once school starts. Mandy Patinkin plays the principal Mr. Tushman (a name he embraces), and we get the expected nice kid Jack Will (Noah Jupe), the girl who befriends him when others won’t Summer (Mille Davis), the rich-kid bully Julian (Bryce Gheisar), and the popular girl Charlotte (Elle McKinnon). Some of the characters have various segments of the film named after them, with each their own stories to tell, and though these are quite loosely told, they do provide some semblance of structure to the film and keep viewers focused on the diverse personalities. Along we go to thru the normal schoolings of any 5th grader really, with things such as the Science Fair (which of course they win), field trip (all inclusive with bullies & those who stand up to them) and school play – where of course miracles happen. While each of these little stories provide critical turning points, most of the film is based on Auggie’s impact on those whose path he crosses and some of them are sweet and touching, and some of them just seem the norm for any 5th grader really.
It’s a weird middle ground for a movie to exist in, a plot of hits & misses as it moves slowly through the story, almost as if it simply doesn’t trust itself to tell its own story and be understood. It simply misses the mark on some things, but yet on others, hits the nail on the head. Daveed Diggs has a nice turn as 5th grade class teacher Mr. Browne, and the always wonderful Sonia Braga makes a much-too-brief appearance in Via’s little vignette as Gran. Director Chbosky previously gave us the gem THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, and this time out he allows us to explore the fragility of friendship and family, and the importance of toughness in an individual, it simply seems to go through the motions at times of what is ‘supposed’ to happen. But I will say, there is something special about what unfolds between children beautifully captured here, though the ending is pure Hollywood. But we should accept the crowd-pleasing cheesiness and be thankful for a pleasant, entertaining family movie for the holiday season.
Media Review Screening: Thursday, November 9, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Lionsgate
‘WONDER’ is out in theatres nationwide Friday, November 17, 2017