Directed and co-written by Stephen Chbosky
Directed and co-written by Stephen Chbosky, Wonder stars Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Daveed Diggs, and Mandy Patinkin. August Pullman (Tremblay) is a boy born with a serious facial disfigurement, which makes him retreat to his own world of Star Wars, Minecraft and astronauts. He now has to start his first day of real school life, and this special boy’s scary journey affects his family and friends greatly along the way.
Wonder is a sweet film for sure, definitely rooted in emotional exploration for the characters involved. The movie begins like it would just tell the story of August, but diverts many times to show his sister, best friend, a kind schoolgirl, and his sister’s former friend and how their lives are changed by August’s presence.
And this is where I had problems with Wonder. As sweet and sentimental as the story looks on paper, the translation to film lacks cohesion. These multiple character voice-overs and their own point-of-view would definitely land in something like the source novel, but this is not an effective technique for this movie adaptation.
You keep feeling like the movie should turn away from side character #3 and go back to August and his wonderful yet struggling mind. It’s unique sure, and we do get a fantastic performance from Izabela Vidovic as August’s sister “Via”, but these stories are just not as engaging as director Stephen Chbosky might think.
The biggest positive from Wonder are the performances which are all consistently moving and funny from actors big and small. Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts are showing new, lovingly endearing sides to their acting, and every child actor gives every scene their all, especially the wonderful Jacob Tremblay.
Aside from those solid performances, Wonder really doesn’t have much to offer in the sub-genre of “special child has tough school” movies. Scenes of heavy Star Wars references or tough family drama are interesting and insightful in the moment, but for some reason get cut down, skipped over, or just erased entirely. Wonder is a highly conventional movie that sparks with new perspectives, but is frustratingly unable to spread that fire through the entire experience.