By Bradley Griffith
I’m not a fan of feel-good movies in general. That may sound bad, but they are usually so sweet and cuddly that it almost makes me physically ill. So, I wasn’t thrilled to rent “Wonder” to watch at home at my daughter’s recommendation. But I’m glad I did.
August “Auggie” Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) just wants to be normal. He wants to be an ordinary kid who does ordinary things like go to school, have friends to play with, and leave his house without a helmet over his head. At home in his sanctuary away from the world, Auggie is treated by his mom, Isabel (Julia Roberts), dad, Nate (Owen Wilson), and sister, Olivia “Via” (Izabela Vidovic), like a normal kid.
Auggie suffers from a genetic disorder known as Treacher Collins Syndrome. The condition is characterized by deformities of the ears, eyes, cheekbones, and chin. Auggie has undergone 27 surgeries to help him with a variety of issues caused by his disorder. He has had surgeries that range from helping him breathe to plastic surgery. Because of his health issues, Auggie had been homeschooled by his mom. But as Auggie approaches middle-school age his parents think it’s time to enroll him in school.
Middle school is not easy for most kids, so you can imagine how difficult it is for Auggie. Everyone stares at him and no one wants to be his friend. In fact, no one wants to talk to him or even touch him. The students are fond of saying that whoever touches Auggie has the plague. It’s no surprise that Auggie hates school, at first.
Auggie makes a friend in Jack Will (Noah Jupe). Jack even comes to Auggie’s home to play and just be a kid, something that Auggie has never experienced. Just as things start to look up for Auggie as he actually made a friend, everything falls apart again for him.
But the Pullman’s have another child too. Via is also starting a new school. She’s a freshman in high school and her best friend will no longer speak to her. Isabel and Nate focus so much on Auggie that, at least in Via’s eyes, they don’t really care about her life.
“Wonder” is a movie largely about Auggie trying to fit in at school and be treated like everyone else. But maybe the best thing about the movie is that it tells the story from many different perspectives. There’s Auggie, of course. But the movie is also told through the eyes of Via, Jack, and Via’s (former) best friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell). Auggie has an effect on all of these people and it’s interesting to see part of the story told by them from their perspective. Auggie is not the only one with problems.
The story of the adults is also interesting. Isabel put her entire life on hold for Auggie. Now that Auggie is in school maybe she can get back some of her own identity. Nate feels like it’s his job to always keep everyone happy and laughing. Auggie’s homeroom teacher and principal are great at their jobs and are great examples of how people in their positions can affect the lives of children.
All the actors do a great job. There’s not a poor performance in the movie, which is pretty amazing given the difficult subject matter and the fact that many of the actors are children. The writers also told the story well by sporadically injecting humor and light-hearted scenes throughout the movie.
At its core, “Wonder” is a movie about family. Even though Auggie has many challenges that most people don’t have, Auggie has one great advantage: his family. The Pullmans are what a family should be, and they support and love Auggie like every kid deserves.
Like I said, I didn’t really want to watch this movie, but I’m glad I did. It’s a genuinely heartwarming movie that shows us how families can overcome even the most difficult of obstacles. It’s a family movie that about real issues that can be enjoyed by the entire family.
Rated PG for thematic elements including bullying and some mild language.