First days suck. It is known. Everyone has been the new guy at some point in their life, whether it’s at school, a new job, or extended sleep-away camp because your parents rented out your room to travelling buskers. Being the odd one out is just uncomfortable. Plus, if you’re the fresh meat and an oddity, the best I can do is wish you luck. That and share a copy of Grandma’s blueberry muffin recipe. Nothing makes new friends like badass blueberry bribery.
Just like first days, being 10 years old can also suck. Or it could be awesome. It really changes from minute to minute. For Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) being 10 means dreaming big, being a dork with dad, and finally leaving home school for public school. It’s an exciting time for any kid, but Auggie hates being the odd face in a crowd, and petrified that he won’t make any friends. See, Auggie was born with a rare gene that affected his facial features and, consequently, his social life. According to his parents, Isabel (Julia Roberts) and Nate (Owen Wilson), going to a real school with real kids is a now or never strategic move. Wonder is a window into a grade-fiver’s life, with nice kids like Jack (Noah Jupe) and total frauds like Julian (Bryce Gheisar), plus cool teachers and daily gladiatorial training known as dodgeball. It’s just that for Auggie there is a little something extra to be worried about every time he enters a room.
The world revolves around this little boy and his astronaut-filled hallucinations. His imagination is positive and heroic, with regular guest appearances from Chewbacca. It’s easy to see a lot of our own childhoods in Auggie, except for the part where people run away in terror. Kids can be relentlessly cruel. Still, Auggie handles it like a champ, which is what makes Wonder so… wonderful. He feels frustrated and hurt as any kid would, but he’s also inspired by science, inventions, and light sabers. Even so, it can sometimes be hard for Auggie to shine, especially when he faces a world full of superficial, judgmental peers.
Kids can be harsh, but they can also be surprisingly delightful. Every time someone steps out of their way to include Auggie in normal human stuff, a little light flickers behind his eyes. It’s heartwarming. What’s perfectly special about Wonder is that Auggie isn’t the only kid to feel alienated. He may be the only one with an obvious physical difference, but other kids are victims of their own battles. True to the book, Wonder tries to balance multiple perspectives since there’s always more than one side to a story.
The most enlightening of these stories is Julian. He’s the classic privileged boy with cool hair and flocks of friends. But Julian is a subtle bully. It’s not until we hear his chapter and meet his backstory that his actions make sense. We don’t understand Julian through Auggie’s eyes, but he makes a little more sense when we see him through Principle Tushman (Mandy Patinkin). We can trust the old educator’s judgement – the fullness of his beard is proof enough. To Mr. Tushman, Julian is a product of his environment. While the boy is definitely at fault for his actions, there’s a certain point when you can’t blame a race horse for running too fast.
On the other side, Auggie’s parents are cool, smart, loving, total movie parents. They’re rent-by-hour parent-teacher interview parents. Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts are a power couple and their chemistry is divine, but they’re not perfect. They’re great with Auggie but they half-neglect their daughter, Via (Izabela Vidovic). Personally, Via is my favourite. She’s a struggling teenager who stands down because other people have bigger problems. She bottles it all up inside for future adult therapy that she definitely won’t tell her parents about because Auggie has more obvious problems meaning that nothing’s okay but it’s all mostly okay because she’s a good sister and understands when Auggie needs special attention regardless of whether her social life is in shambles. Lord but I do not miss puberty. Auggie has a support system that will make him strong and tolerant; Via is already strong and tolerant. Via is a superhero.
Wonder captures the magic of childhood with all its time-burning hobbies and unavoidable Dad jokes. Like the book, Wonder focuses on Auggie’s place in the world, but it struggles to find a due-north direction and a good climax to aim for. It’s cute, but not particularly exciting. As a feel-good film, Wonder hits the mark, but I’m not convinced I would re-watch it over and over. It’s a sweet and friendly 6.5/10.