REVIEW: ‘Wonder’ one of the best films of 2017
November 17th, 2017 / By: Michael Foust / comments
Auggie is a smart and funny young boy who knows he isn’t – in his words -- “ordinary.” He sounds different. He looks different. And when other kids see him on the playground, they run.
Born with major facial deformities, he has undergone 27 surgeries to improve his vision, hearing and breathing, but even those operations haven’t made him look normal. So he wears an astronaut’s helmet.
He’s also been homeschooled, which means he hasn’t faced the bullying and name-calling that could ensue.
But now that Auggie is old enough to enter middle school, his parents believe it’s time to integrate him into a more public setting – that is, a mainstream school.
Will other children accept him? Can he make friends?
It’s all part of the heart-warming film Wonder (PG), which opens this weekend and is based on the popular children’s novel of the same name by R.J. Palacio. It stars Jacob Tremblay as Auggie; Owen Wilson as his father; Julia Roberts as his mom; and Izabela Vidovic as his teenage sister, Via.
Wonder is an emotion-laden comedy-drama that is, well, wonderful. You feel for Auggie, you laugh with Auggie, and by the end, you’re cheering him on. It’s the box-office tonic our divided society needs to watch. I cried … and cried. It’s also one of the best films of 2017.
Let’s examine the details.
Warning: minor spoilers!
Minimal. We see two middle school students fight in the hallway. Later, we see a group of boys fighting another groups of boys in the woods (in self-defense).
Minimal. Two high school students share a kiss, twice. (We also see them hug and hold hands.) We also see a mom and dad kiss.
Minimal. I counted four coarse words: OMG (3), misuse of “God” (1), misuse of “Jesus” (1). We also hear three or four other common crude words.
Other Positive Elements
Although some of the kids are slow to accept Auggie, by the film’s end they are good friends with him. Auggie’s sister, too, shows unconditional love for Auggie, even though she has largely been ignored.
The movie’s anti-bullying message is front and center. The principal tells one set of problematic parents: Auggie can’t change the way he looks but “maybe we can change the way we see.”
Wonder is a pro-life film, even if it doesn’t deal with the subject of abortion. That’s because it showcases the value and worth of a little boy who would have been cast aside in many cultures.
Other Negative Elements
Auggie’s mom, excited about their family’s progress, jokes with her husband: “Let’s get drunk.”
Wonder is filled with positive lessons. The film gives us lessons on self-sacrifice (the mom had put her career on hold to take care of Auggie), bullying (see above), befriending those who look different, and standing up for what is right.
Several months ago, I was sitting in a restaurant when my 9-year-old son saw a disabled woman at a restaurant and asked: “What’s wrong with her, Dad?” It was a teachable moment, and I made four points: 1) that’s the way she was made, 2) she is valuable to God, 3) she is just like us, and, 4) God expects us to stand up for her. Those are the same points I’d make to my son if he asked, “What’s wrong with Auggie?” Auggie was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) and is valuable to him. God expects us to stand up for him – and he will judge those who mistreat the afflicted (Amos 2:6-7; Isaiah 35:3-4).
What I Liked
The screenplay – it tells the story from the perspective of different people in Auggie’s life -- and the humor. The film also does a great job showing Auggie as a normal kid. He loves sports. He enjoys light saber battles. He simply looks different. And that’s no big deal.
What I Didn’t Like
The fighting. Sure, it can be rationalized by labeling it as self-defense and standing up for the oppressed. But I fear children will watch the film and walk away believing violence is the only option.
Overall, Wonder is mostly family-friendly. I’d likely take my 9-year-old son to watch it. But my 5-year-old twins? I’m not sure. Different parents will reach different conclusions about young ones viewing it.
Thumbs Up … Or Down?
Entertainment rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Wonder is rated PG for thematic elements including bullying, and some mild language.