August 2, 2019
Wonder (2017)
Grade: 58/100

Director: Stephen Chbosky
Stars: Jacob Tremblay, Izabela Vidovic, Julia Roberts

What it's about. Based on the R.J. Palacio bestseller novel. Fifth or sixth grader Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) attends middle school after years of home schooling. He has a nice pretty sister Via (Izabela Vidovic), a nice pretty mother (Julia Roberts), and a nice friendly dad (Owen Wilson).

But everyone is worried, because they are afraid that shy and nerdy Auggie will be bullied. He was born with a facial birth defect that surgery could not fully correct.

Indeed, a popular two-faced kid named Julian (Bryce Gheisar) becomes the jerk bully, and poor Auggie is shunned and friendless. And so is his big sister, after her best friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell) becomes distant.

Not to worry, though. Soon Auggie will have lots of friends, Via will get Miranda back and a nice boyfriend to boot, the bully will have to leave school, and Owen Wilson is elected President. Okay, I made up that last part.

How others will see it. Wonder was a big box office hit, and was generally well received by critics. It was nominated for both an Oscar and a BAFTA award, but alas in a technical category, Best Makeup.

Today at, the movie has a big 114K user votes and a lofty 8.0 user rating. More than 90% of viewers grade the film a 7 (out of 10) or higher. It follows that most reviews are highly positive, e.g. "Great movie for all ages", "Feel good movie!".

How I felt about it. Doug McClure is credited with the quote "Watching The Sound of Music is like being beaten to death by a Hallmark card." The infamous quote returned to my memory while forcing myself to finish watching this movie. The happy endings come in like a tidal wave. Of course it ends with Auggie winning a needless award and taking bows while everyone in school, from the principal down to freshmen, beams with ecstasy and gives him an endless standing ovation.

Why does Auggie have to be the smartest kid in the school. Much smarter than anyone else. Why does everyone think he's disfigured, when all he needs to do is take that prosthetic off his nose. After all those plastic surgeries, couldn't he find a doctor who could give him a nose that doesn't look it came from the set of "Star Trek The Next Generation"?

Why does the father have to be Owen Wilson, the coolest guy in the world? And the mother is Pretty Woman herself, Julia Roberts. The sister is a heartbreaker, best friend Miranda is downright gorgeous, Jack Will is the cutest kid in school, and Summer (Auggie's girlfriend) is a close second. Via's boyfriend is the nicest kid in school, the bullies always get theirs in the end, and Julia Roberts after years of inactivity completes her thesis. Why? Because the producers believe the audience loves happy endings.

Which is why Via has to be the star of her school play, even though she has never acted before, and is only there because her not-yet-boyfriend was nice to her for a minute.

The movie begins with considerable promise. True, even then it is too cute. Julia Roberts is giving birth, and the doctor is a teenager? On his first day on the job? And he volunteers this information? And if Auggie hates it when people judge him by his face, why should he judge people by their shoes? About all my shoes say is that I am too cheap to buy a new pair.

It's wrong to laugh at Auggie for looking different. But it's okay to laugh at another kid when a mock volcano erupts into his face. Shouldn't someone get a towel?

In the real world, the bullies remain popular, are not punished, and the teachers don't care. In the world of Wonder, the bullies lose their friends, and leave the school, after teachers and principals drop everything to help out the protagonist. Without him even asking or accusing.

But, profit is the name of the game in Hollywood, and guess what. The Sound of Music had, if I recall, the biggest box office of any film from the 1960s. And Wonder had a worldwide gross of 300M from a budget of only 20M. So, if you are a filmmaker, the moral is clear. Ladle on the happiness. Vanquish the bullies, reward the nice guys. The audience will love it.