Among my many unfortunate Major changes throughout my extensive years in college, one of them was Education. As an Education Major, I took a class called “Young Adult Literature”, a class where we read one YA book every week. There were some great ones, some awful ones, and then there was Wonder. Wonder was one of my favorites because the book skillfully takes its subject matter very seriously.
And when I found out they were making a Wonder movie, I was displeased because I had a feeling they’d give it to some schmuck who would just try to make a mindless crowdpleaser. Then when they announced that Jacob Tremblay (a kid with a naturally adorable face) was casted as lead character Auggie Pullman (a kid whose face was extremely deformed), my fears were worsened.
And then the corny-as-heck trailer came out, and every single ounce of desire I had left to see this movie evaporated.
But I decided to give it a chance anyway, and I’m glad I did.
Here’s a summary in 20 words or less:
Auggie Pullman, a child with Franceschetti-Klein syndrome (which deforms the face), goes to a public school for the first time.
First off, not only do they pull off the prosthetics on his face well, but Jacob Tremblay does phenomenal in this leading role. His line delivery far surpasses the talent of nearly every child actor I have ever seen. Not only that but his body posture, his hand movements, all of it demonstrates Tremblay’s talent. It organically told the story of a child who’s sub-conscience was marred by the fact that people immediately judge him by his face.
All the other child actors are great, and there was almost never a moment where one of their performances took me out of the movie.
Auggie’s parents and older sister, (Owen Wilson, Julia Roberts, and Izabela Vidovic), are all really good, and they all naturally played off of each other in ways where you can see how their family dynamics help their family in certain ways, and harm the family in other ways.
One of the things I detest about most YA films that take place in schools is that they usually take school scenarios (like day-to-day interactions, bullying warfare, etc.) and hyperbolize them in absurd ways where it becomes impossible to take them seriously (a good example of this is Wish Upon). However, Wonder understands the value of taking these things with care and genuineness, and thus the narrative greatly benefited as a result.
There are so many moments in Wonder that have strong, resonating feelings that would not have worked had they subjected family and school scenarios to ridiculous overstatements. Because they didn’t do that, nearly every emotional moment in this film strikes the chords they were hoping for.
This film has a lot of narration, by multiple people (but mostly Auggie), and this would normally be a negative for me, but it was mainly used to fill in the blanks with stuff that would’ve taken longer to explain without (and the film’s almost two hours)… so I’m saying the narration did not bother me very much.
If I were to choose a “worst” element of this movie, it would easily be the soundtrack. The soundtrack was extremely over-utilized, and it never transformed the scenes in interesting ways and often took the predictable route. Worse yet, there were some scenes that had their emotional moments killed by a stupid song that had no benefit to the scene whatsoever.
The movie is also not without its moments of cheesy dialogue and stupid filler scenes meant to be silly. Also, the movie couldn’t help but throw in unnecessary flashbacks, which was disappointing.
None of these elements are deal breakers, and the performances, especially by the fantastic Jacob Tremblay, make up for any bad things this film might have. If the cheesy trailer has turned you off from seeing this film, I would recommend giving the film a chance anyway. It’s a touching, fun, crowd-pleasing, and most of all sincere movie. It has certainly been a great year for YA films.