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Too often in live-action family films, any endearing content is destroyed by the inevitable cheese that overshadows everything else. It is difficult to achieve a balanced blend of tenderness and entertainment, yet somehow, the engaging WONDER finds a way.

10-year-old Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) is like most boys his age. He loves STAR WARS and video games, and hopes to one day become an astronaut. He is highly
intelligent with a penchant for science, and lives at home with his adoring mother (Julia Roberts,) father (Owen Wilson,) and teenage sister, Via (Izabela Vidovic). And, for the first time in his life, he is set to attend a public school. Auggie is heading into the fifth grade, and up until this point, he has been home-taught by his mom. This life changing
moment would be a monumental task for any tween, but Auggie’s situation is far
different than most. Due to a genetic abnormality, he has gone through 27 surgeries in his life, and has facial differences that sets him apart from the rest of his potential

While Auggie’s tale is the focal point of WONDER, the film also explores the lives of those that are most important to him. This is particularly true of his sister, who, despite outward appearances, is having personal struggles of her own. She loves her brother, but at the same time, from the
moment he was born, he has emerged the focal point of the family. Via is intelligent, likable, and kind, but her best friend seems to have moved on, and her seemingly picturesque high school existence is anything but. In the capable hands of Vidovic, the character brings depth and
tenderness to a supporting character who is just as pivotal to the
success of the film as Tremblay’s Auggie.

As far as Tremblay is concerned, he is truly a wonder, indeed.
Unrecognizable behind the incredible makeup work of Arjen Tuiten (who was nominated for an Academy Award for his efforts) the talented, breakout star from ROOM captures the essence of the character
originally created by author R.J. Palacio. The difficulties he faces are heart-wrenching, yet he tackles them with a resiliency that is both
inspiring, and unfathomable. His parents, played expertly by Roberts and Wilson, are there to support him every step of the way, but even their affection and encouragement can only take him so far. It is Auggie who must face the relentless cruelty of some of his classmates, while at the same time, learning the true meaning of friendship and hope.

Tackling sensitive issues such as familial love, friendship, heartache, and bullying, WONDER could have dissolved into the typical
melodramatic slog that produces far more eye rolling than smiles.
Instead, it remains engaging and charming throughout, largely in part to the excellent cast. There are a number of difficult moments,
particularly due to the inevitable bullying that Auggie faces. This may be difficult for some to watch, yet at the same time, it’s an imperative lesson for the tween crowd to see. The unjust torment that Auggie faces is appalling, but unfortunately, remains a real crisis for countless student’s across the globe. While there is obviously some thematic elements to the production, there is very little offensive content that would dissuade families from watching WONDER together. This allows the film to reach the widest audience possible, and helps place a lovable face on a number of difficult issues facing children today.

Brian Miller
Film Critic
Based out of Central New York, Brian Miller is a film critic who works in television, radio, and print. Providing passionate and energetic takes on every movie he sees, he looks for the best in a movie, not the worst.