“Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.” In case you missed this moral—unsubtly underlined over and over again—it will be repeated out loud at the film’s end. It seems churlish to complain about a movie that reminds kids to be nice to people, but Wonder is both ham-handed and so subdued as to be almost dramatically inert, as if the movie doesn’t trust itself with its own simple story. Ten-year-old Auggie (charming Jacob Tremblay), who suffers from facial deformities, is going to school for the first time—having previously been homeschooled by his mom (Julia Roberts)—where he remains a bullied outcast for quite a while. This isn’t Auggie’s story alone, however; it takes jarring detours into those of his older sister (Izabela Vidovic) and his one new friend (Noah Jupe), tangents meant to show us those other hard battles. But while the film does avoid sappiness, it has other problems: Offering up Auggie’s distress up as a path by which others might become better people isn’t as nice or as kind as Wonder seems to believe it is.
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Producer: David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, Jeff Skoll, Robert Kessel, Michael Beugg, Alexander Young and R.J. Palacio
Cast: Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Jacob Tremblay, Izabela Vidovic, Noah Jupe, Nadji Jeter, Daveed Diggs, Mandy Patinkin, Ali Liebert, Emma Tremblay, Millie Davis, Bryce Gheisar, Danielle Russell, Elle McKinnon, Sonia Braga, Ty Consiglio, Kyle Breitkopf and James Hughes