It’s 2017, kids. Grow up.
Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) is a normal, 10-year-old kid. He has ambitions of one day becoming an astronaut, he loves his mom (Julia Roberts), his dad (Owen Wilson), his sister (Izabela Vidovic), and his dog). But he’s also been born with facial differences that, to the world around him, is scary. Those who know and love him, don’t care, but the outside world isn’t quite accepting of Auggie and the way he looks. It’s why he’s stayed away from a mainstream school and chooses to where an astronaut’s helmet, just about everywhere he goes in public. But now, that’s all about to change. Finally, after many, many years, he’s going to an actual school, with actual other classmates, and without the helmet. It’s going to be a brand new life for Auggie and it’s not just going to change him, but those around him. For better, as well as for worse.
It’s hard to really get mad at a movie like Wonder. It does everything that it sets out to do – which is, to make us cry our eyes out – and it’s just so damn sweet, so innocent, and so nice about itself, that even the thought of kicking it, let alone thinking of doing it harm, is also too much to even handle.
Don’t trust him, Auggie! All kids are evil!
But here I am, talking a little bit of smack about Wonder, against my better wishes.
Which isn’t to say that the movie doesn’t achieve what it sets out to do, because it absolutely does. Co-writer/director Stephen Chbosky seems to have a knack for setting up these very raw and emotional scenes, giving the right cue, and then, watching as the tears begin to run. He does it at least 10-15 times here, and while not every time works, the moments in which it does, it’s hard to not think about. In a movie that’s as mild-mannered and as child-like as Wonder, it’s also a movie that isn’t afraid to get to the heart of some matters and pick at our inner-most weaknesses.
In a way, it’s kind of a sick movie, but it’s the kind of sick movie that made me happy to tear-up a little bit. It not only reminded me that I am a human, with a heart, and feelings, for once, but also that small, well-natured movies can still exist and not necessarily knock it out of the park, but be enjoyable and pleasant enough to get the job done. Even despite it being released in the heart of awards-season, Wonder is no doubt a family-movie, made for the family, and not really made for the 80-90-year-old Oscar-voters.
It’s a movie made for people who want to cry a little bit, feel all warm and gooey inside, and possibly beg for someone to hug them.
And hey, there’s nothing wrong with that.
The only issue that I, the angry, cynical d-bag that I am, have is that often times, it feels like Wonder is juggling way too much and doesn’t know how to really settle itself down, so instead, takes some easy short-cuts. For instance, rather than Wonder just being about Auggie and his adventure into being accepted in the school-system, it’s also about everybody else around him and who may have been impacted by his life. There’s his sister, his sister’s best-friend, and two friends at his school, who all seem to get their own little subplots to go along with his, which is nice to see for once.
There’s a sitcom in there somewhere.
It would have been easy for Wonder to just be all about Auggie, without ever really focusing on those around him, when in reality, that isn’t the case in real life. And the subplots we get, while a little jammed-in, help bring some more heart, emotion, and thought, to a movie that was already brimming with it. Chbosky isn’t afraid to take small risks like these and it’s nice to still see, even if it also feels like the movie would have probably worked best as, I don’t know, a miniseries.
Because while you have Auggie’s adventure getting the most of the attention, all of the other characters, while getting their times in the spotlight, still don’t feel fully realized. We get at least ten or so minutes with them, to help give us some context, and then we’re back to Auggie. In some cases, like with Noah Jupe’s Jack, we get a better understanding of his home life, but then it’s all we apparently need and we’re back to the main crux of the story, which happens to be Auggie. It doesn’t quite work as well as it should; rather than feeling like it’s giving us a much more fuller, clearer picture, it instead leaves strands of plot, sometimes dangling in the air.
Some movies can do that and get away with it. Wonder is not that movie.
Instead, it’s a movie that makes a slight step above an after-school special, with a great cast, a great director, and a solid team of writers, but still, the execution is just a tad bit off. It’s the kind of movie that all kids and families should see, because it literally speaks about how kindness can make the world a much better, much safer, and much nicer place, but it’s also the kind that’s not quite perfect.
Did it need to be? Nope, not really. But it flirts with the idea of being that and it’s a shame when it doesn’t get to that level.
Consensus: Even with noble intentions and a heartfelt direction, Wonder feels like it has too much within it, to feel complete, even at a near-two hours.
6 / 10
If Julia Roberts is your flesh and blood, facial deformity or not, you’ll turn out fine.
Photos Courtesy of: Lionsgate