It’s been a while since we’ve had a classic tear-jerker at the movies. Sure, we may cry occasionally at romantic comedies or heavily dramatic films, but Wonder, adapted from the book by R.J. Palacio, is so saccharine it feels like its sole purpose is to trigger tears. (Think Marley & Me, minus the dogs. OK, there’s one dog in this movie.)
Wonder has quirky charm, and despite knowing what it purposefully does to our fragile hearts, it’s easy to get caught up in it. You can’t begrudge the movie, especially with Canadian sweetheart Jacob Tremblay in the lead role. His face obscured by prosthetics, you can’t even tell it’s him. But then that squeaky, adorable voice comes through, and you’re hooked.
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Tremblay is Auggie, a 10-year-old boy born with facial abnormalities. His mother (Julia Roberts) and father (Owen Wilson) decide to end his home schooling so he can face the “real” world; Wonder is the story of Auggie adapting to the harsh realities of humanity, how we’re quick to judge based on appearance.
What makes Wonder (the movie) so compelling is the story isn’t just told from Auggie’s perspective, but rather the entire family’s individual points-of-view. Divided into sections by character name, Wonder progresses as Auggie gets through his first year of public school.
Some critics are arguing that this is sappy for sappy’s sake.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. This movie is Sap Central from beginning to end. The family, while it undergoes hardships, is always loving, always caring, and everything turns out peachy keen. The clear message of the film is about inner beauty; if it had a tagline it would be “you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.” Roberts even utters a version of that line to Auggie at some point.
If that kind of movie isn’t your thing, steer far, far away from Wonder — you’ll spend the entire runtime nitpicking how unrealistic it is.
It sounds a little unbelievable, honestly.
Well, what do you want? A movie about a boy with facial abnormalities getting relentlessly bullied and suffering through his entire life? Or a feel-good movie about overcoming adversity and realizing that by surrounding yourself with supportive and accepting people, one can find happiness? I don’t know about you, but I prefer the latter.
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Tremblay really is a tremendous young actor. You want to root for poor Auggie, and while it’s virtually impossible to dislike the kid, Tremblay’s performance adds a needed dimension and depth. Amazing that his only visible feature — his eyes — can possibly express so much. Expect great things from this young man as he grows older.
Wow, Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson? How are they?
It feels like we haven’t seen these two for a long while, and I’m happy to report that they’re just as good as you remember. Wilson plays the goofy, lovable father to a tee, and Roberts is in her element as a doting mom. Both of them seem very at-home in their roles, and supporting cast members Izabela Vidovic, who plays Auggie’s sister, and Danielle Rose Russell as a family friend, add necessary, surprisingly gripping side stories to deviate from the main plot.
So what’s the bottom line?
Wonder won’t be an Oscar-winning film, nor will it get much buzz, but it’s a wonderful display of what Tremblay is capable of (and what we might get from him in the future). Want to shed a few tears and leave the theatre with a warm heart? Grab a ticket for Wonder.
‘Wonder’ opens in theatres across Canada on Nov. 17.