REVIEW: Tear-jerker ‘Wonder’ tells moving story with genuine emotion



Benjamin VanHoose

Hopefully you found some Black Friday deals on tissues because you’ll need a few boxes during this movie.

After adapting his own young adult novel for his 2012 directorial debut “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” Stephen Chbosky delves into the middle-grade library for “Wonder.” Based on Raquel J. Palacio’s book of the same name, the film follows Auggie Pullman, a fifth grader with facial differences attending school for the first time.



  • Rated PG for thematic elements including bullying, and some mild language
  • Starring Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Izabella Vidovic, Daveed Diggs, Mandy Patinkin
  • Directed by Stephen Chbosky
  • Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes
  • You’ll like this if you liked: “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “Mask”

Bouncing between the perspectives of different friends and family members, “Wonder” unfolds a story of true compassion and respect in the tight-knit relationships surrounded by a society quick to judge Auggie based on his appearance.

As the unconditionally loving mother, Julia Roberts shines, never going overboard during sentimental scenes. With subtle mannerisms, she so effortlessly brings to every role — often in the form of facial twitches signaling an impending cry or a well-timed glaring — the Oscar winner dares even the most stone-hearted audience members not to shed a tear.

“Wonder” is basically designed to induce several ugly cries in the span of its near two-hour run time. Besides themes of bullying and fitting in, the script briefly touches upon other issues, including alcoholism, divorce and death.

And if those categories don’t feature a trigger for you, pet-lovers beware because the family dog does not leave the film unscathed.

Rarely, however, do any of these poignant moments seem forced or cynical. Each tear is earned thanks to Chbosky’s writing and direction. Scenes don’t overstay their welcome, and every character gets proper development so the audience connects across the board.

The entire cast commits to what could easily have been a pandering children’s story of trite morals and cheap emotional appeals.

Owen Wilson delivers a touching supporting performance as the father, and Izabela Vidovic impressively balances a tricky role as the sister desperate for her parents’ attention.

In the lead, Jacob Tremblay stands out the most. Even under a layer of prosthetic makeup, the 11-year-old proves the impressive acting chops he introduced the world to in 2015’s “Room” — a performance robbed of an Oscar nomination — were no fluke.

Although “Wonder” doesn’t abandon all kids’ movie tropes (I’m looking at you, Standing Ovation at Opening Night of a Play), Chbosky finds a way to make each scene ring true, and he really covers ground that all ages can relate to.

And with a story built on a powerful message of acceptance and forgiveness, lessons the world always needs to be reminded of, it’s easy to forgive most of the movie’s flaws and enjoy it for its admirable intentions.

Crying during “Wonder” is practically inevitable. If you’re too proud to tote a travel pack of Kleenex, grab a few extra napkins with your popcorn at concessions.

You’ll thank me later, between sobs.

Grade: A-

Benjamin VanHoose is the entertainment reviewer. Contact him at [email protected].