Review: “Wonder” dazzles children, adults with message of empathy and acceptance


Wonder’s promotional poster. Wonder was released Nov. 17 and is now screening everywhere. Image source: Wonder Movie.

It is refreshing to find a film that simply asks its audience to “choose kind.”

I became familiar with this phrase when reading the R.J. Palacio’s bestselling novel “Wonder.” The recent movie,“Wonder,”  based on the book by the same name, tells the story of 10-year-old Auggie (Jacob Tremblay), a boy with facial deformities. Homeschooled up until the fourth grade, Auggie is well aware of the challenges that await him when he enrolls in middle school. But Auggie is not defined by his appearance; his intelligence and kind nature are the qualities that he longs for his peers to see.

“Wonder” also includes the narratives of other figures in Auggie’s life. Although all of the narratives are poignant and engaging, a highlight is the coming of age of Auggie’s sister, Via (Izabela Vidovic), as well as the journey of Auggie’s friend and classmate, Jack Will (Noah Jupe). However, Auggie’s bright and compassionate mother (Julia Roberts) and humorous but genuine dad (Owen Wilson) should not be overlooked.

The vibrant and well-drawn characters are cast and portrayed perfectly.  They accentuate the engaging and well-paced story. Tremblay’s Auggie is relatable, inspires empathy and handles his situation in a light-hearted but equally touching way. Auggie’s family is realistic and supportive; they are always there for Auggie, despite having their own personal struggles. All of Auggie’s classmates also play their roles to perfection, and the audience comes to understand and have sympathy for all of them — even Auggie’s primary tormentor, Julian. Mandy Patinkin and Daveed Diggs shine in their supporting roles as Auggie’s principal and teacher, respectively, but they don’t upstage the main characters.

Screenwriter Stephen Chbosky, who helped pen the screenplay for the 2017 adaption of “Beauty and the Beast,” takes on the additional role of director for “Wonder,” according to IMDB. He succeeds in telling another poignant story of acceptance despite appearance. The tone of the screenplay and direction tell the story in an emotional yet humorous way, which allows the film to be impactful and engaging for all ages.

“Wonder” is rare in it’s appeal to both children and adults. Movies can lose kids’ interest with slower pacing and a complicated plot, or they can bore adults with a superficial and hastily constructed story. “Wonder” does neither of these things. The movie gives kids characters to which they can relate and a plot they can follow. But it also gives adults a deep story with insight into the lives of children. The story is beautifully simple, and the themes are universal, yet complex.

In many ways, “Wonder” has found the perfect medium between humor and drama, as well as simplicity and substance. The film is uplifting, but not preachy. It is hopeful, but also realistic. And as someone who greatly enjoyed Palacio’s novel, the movie did not disappoint.

“Wonder” is rated PG for thematic elements including bullying, and some mild language. It is currently playing in theaters, including Cinemark, Arclight and AMC.

  • Story
  • Acting
  • Technical Quality
  • Enjoyment
  • Impact