(director/writer: Stephen Chbosky; screenwriters: Jack Thorne/Steven Conrad/based on the novel by R.C. Palacio; cinematographer: Don Burgess; editor: Mark Livolsi; music: Marcelo Zarvos; cast: Julia Roberts (Isabel Pullman), Owen Wilson (Nate), Jacob Tremblay (Auggie Pullman), Mandy Pantinkin (Mr. Tushman), Daveed Diggs (Mr. Browne), Isabela Vidovic (Via), Noah Jupe (Jack Will), Nadji Jeter (Justin), Ali Liebert (Ms. Petosa), Ben Ratner (Mr. Davenport), Emma Tremblay (Camp Counsellor), Bryce Gheisar (Julian), Danielle Rose Russell (Miranda), Elle Mckinnon (Charlotte), Millie Davis (Summer); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman.; Lionsgate; 2017)
“The message is delivered decrying bullying, but it’s delivered heavy-handed.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
“Wonder” is adapted from R.J. Palacio’s young adult 2012 novel. It took its title from the 1995 Natalie Merchant song about overcoming disfigurement. Director-writer Stephen Chbosky (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower“/”The Four Corners of Nowhere”) blends together a family drama about a bullied youngster eventually winning acceptance from his peers, that’s both a tearjerker and a comedy. Co-writers Jack Thorne and Steven Conrad try to avoid being predictable or using too many cliches or being overwrought with sappy significant dramatics. For the most part, they do succeed. But in the final act it looks like all the other mediocre social conflict family dramas Hollywood churns out, as the film concludes with a mushy artificial feel-good scenario. Its heartbreaking story is about a young boy, Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), born with a a congenital facial deformity. Its opening scenes resonate with choosing kindness, as it introduces the wonderful Auggie wearing a space helmet to shield his disfigured face. This condition causes him to be picked on and ridiculed on the outside, and he finds safety only with his protective family. The story is built around how the kid finds the courage to leave his house without covering his face. Auggie’s caring mother, Isabel Pullman (Julia Robers), nurtures her 10-year-old geeky science whiz and Star Wars follower sweet son, as he goes through many operations. Because of his ugly looks, he must take the ignorant insults or rude stares from strangers (Auggie has a prosthetic face covering). The film highlights his life-changing year when the kid leaves the house. The home-schooled kid who is taught by mom in their Brooklyn brownstone while dad (Owen Wilson) works, is talked by his parents into enrolling in the 5th grade at the Beecher Prep School. His classmates tease him over his Star Wars fan boy enthusiasm and mock him as “Barf Hideous.” In school he’s classmates with the good egg Jack Will (Noah Jupe), the bully Julian (Bryce Gheisar) and the shy girl Summer (Millie Davis). The kid’s teen sister Via (Isabela Vidovic) is the forgotten one in the family, as Auggie gets all their attention. There’s a subplot about her loneliness and romance with the drama student Justin (Nadji Jeter). Mandy Pantinkin is excellent as Mr.Tushman, the wise, protective and considerate principal. Another subplot goes on about Via’s best friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell) betraying her and Auggie’s friend Jack betraying him with uncalled for comments behind his back. All the family members are given full attention, as this well-acted and conceived film covers fully all angles of this tough domestic situation. It keeps it real until in the final act it shamelessly falls apart and every character from bully to the victim unrealistically find what they are looking for to make their life better. The message is delivered decrying bullying, but it’s delivered heavy-handed.
REVIEWED ON 11/18/2017 GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/