Wonder Review: Oh, It’s a Wonder Alright

There is a message throughout Wonder and not only is it pitch perfect in how it’s handled and delivered in the movie, it could not be timelier and simultaneously timeless.

Jacob Tremblay is Auggie. The child acting sensation who shook Hollywood with his haunting turn opposite Oscar winner Brie Larson in Room, returns to raise the bar on his own potential with a mesmerizing, moving and needs to be heralded performance as the kid born with facial birth defects whose views on life should be taught in classrooms the world over.

This time out, Tremblay is going toe-to-toe with two esteemed actors playing his parents, Julia Roberts is Isabel and Owen Wilson portrays dad Nate. They have instilled a belief in him that there is nothing wrong or odd about the way he looks. The key to life, they say, is to believe in yourself and to simply be yourself, regardless of what others are saying and more importantly, doing.

Helping Auggie out is his older sister Via (Izabela Vidovic). Her unconditional love for him certainly gives the Wonder of a kid some ammo when he heads out into the world as he commences his first experience of going to school after years of being home schooled. His parents have done a stellar job. The kid is smart, wickedly insightful and more than ready to tackle the public school scholastic load. The question is how he will fare when it comes to the social aspect of that landscape and the landmines we all know his days will be riddled with.

This is a film that could have been preachy or come off as another example of Hollywood telling the world how to believe or feel when much of the country appears to have no desire in hearing the lecture. What is such a wonder about Wonder is how, in the hands of writer-director Stephen Chbosky the film hits all the right notes, employs an impeccable tone and utilizes humor, heart and stone-cold reality in pitch perfect doses that makes the entire Wonder experience one to treasure, celebrate and shout to the skies with glee.

Chbosky is no stranger to handling the nuances of youth and how growing up can be a painful, yet gloriously magical time. Upon hearing that the man who delivered the stunner The Perks of Being a Wallflower would be the one bringing the stunning story of Auggie to the silver screen, we just knew that his touch would be spot-on. How well he did do with this subject matter exceeded our expectations on every level.

Both Roberts and Wilson have had celebrated moments in their career and each could easily have either gone the overly sensitive parent route to capturing their characters. Yet, that is not what they did. Each has their moments of fear, trepidation and triumph as they witness their child dive into the deep end of public education. In the hands of these seasoned thespian veterans, they bring an everyman and woman element to their turns that not only grounds their characters, but the entire film itself. Whether you are a parent or not, the way that Roberts and Wilson produce and emotional tether to the audience is nothing short of mesmerizing.

The raves for this film, in hindsight, should be hardly a surprise. The story of Auggie is already a sensation and has resonated with readers for years. The novel by R.J. Palacio is a marvel and there are also a series of children’s books that feature Auggie as the protagonist and those too have struck a chord with readers. At the core of this adoration of Auggie is this loving and nurturing family and a boy whose view on life is not only infectious because of what he has been through, but it is also inspiring because it is simply just a spot-on way to view the world around us, regardless of our situation. It would be rare to get a sequel to a story that wraps up so nicely, as Wonder does. But, as there have been subsequent children’s books that follow Auggie as he heads into adolescence, would it be too much to ask that if the film is a success that we get to revisit this one-in-a-million kid whose view on the world is one that every single one of us should aspire to possess.

Grade: A