Level Headed Empathy: Our Review of ‘Wonder’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - November 17, 2017
Level Headed Empathy: Our Review of ‘Wonder’

It’s amazing and kind of sad to think about how quickly forget about how important it is to just be nice to people…

I’ll be the first to admit that at first glance; Wonder looked like a saccharine and smarmy piece of total nonsense but when you a dig a little deeper it’s actually a sweet story that not only works for the little ones in our lives but as a healthy reminder for far too many adults out there.

Born with facial deformities that up until now have prevented him from going to a mainstream school, Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) is gearing up for his first day of real school in the fifth grade. As his family, his new classmates, and the larger community all struggle to find their compassion and acceptance, Auggie’s extraordinary journey will unite them all and prove you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

It’s a rare thing to be able to genuinely pull on the heart strings of your audience without being pandering or even corny, but Wonder is a heartfelt life lesson to ‘choose kind’ that resonates if your 8 years old or even if you are 80 years old.

Based on the New York Times Best Seller of the same name, co-writer and director Stephen Chobsky made a name for himself with his debut feature; The Perks of Being A Wallflower and continues his solid run here managing to channel the empathy and pathos of the angst that can come with youth.  He keeps the narrative going very well as the story keeps a healthy balance between all the primary characters and doesn’t get bogged down into any one aspect of the story.  It easy to let the focus get drawn to the cute yet deformed kid but families that deal with issues like this have to handle so much more actual nuance then simple black and white issues.  Chobsky allows the layers of it all to play out and thanks to a solid ensemble cast the entire experience is just that much richer because he allows the actors to genuinely explore the characters rather then get pigeonholed into any one dimensional boxes.  It all does ride the line of being corny but it stays on the genuine side of it all thanks to some performances in the ensemble that had a real sense of the material.

Even with makeup designed to make him evoke empathy or be ‘scary’ to younger kids, Jacob Tremblay is still unquestionably cute but with the more jobs that he gets the more he learns to use that to his advantage by giving us genuinely crafted performances that feature unparalleled care and nuance.  The kid knows how to act and as we see his Auggie go through the highs and lows of life, learning how to put himself out there, make friends and deal with people who lash out at him if only out of fear and complete misunderstanding.  He’s Canada’s own and he’s just going to keep getting better.  Surrounded by a strong supporting cast that was actually smart enough to stay out of the kids way, Julia Roberts is quite good as his lovingly loyal mother and while Owen Wilson never really got any material to stand out with.  Rather, it’s the likes of Mandy Patinkin and young actors like Izabela Vidovic and Noah Jupe taking the bulk of the load as Auggie’s long suffering sister and unlikely best friend who help to make Tremblay’s character such a likeable and heroic young man as he not only adapts but thrives in life outside of the safe confines of his home. 

At first glance, the commercials and trailers for Wonder don’t necessarily help it as it can look like your run of the mill ‘Hallmark’ movie of the week but it’s got more layers to it then you’d initially expect.  It will hopefully serve as not only a reminder but a rallying cry to so many of us that there’s a lot of people out there who have it worse than us and maybe if we just take an extra minute or two to be kind to those we encounter in our day to day lives, the world just might end up being a better place.  That’s the kind of emotional and social inspiration that we need these days.

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David Voigt, has been a lover of cinema all his life and an actual underpaid critic for a solid 5 years covering everything that the city of Toronto has to offer. He was a content manager in video distribution industry before that and his love of all things cinema goes back to his first moments in awe looking up at the big screen. His 12 years of experience on the home entertainment side of the business have provided him with a unique view on what is worth spending your hard earned entertainment dollars on. Combine that with his unquestioned love of film, David should be your only stop to find out about the best in film, not only in Toronto, but worldwide.