Julia Roberts and Jacob Tremblay
The sentimentality is not too sappy in this adaptation of R.J. Palacio’s bestseller. Auggie Pullman (the unrecognizable Jacob Tremblay, who wowed everyone in Room) does not look like his fifth-grade classmates, which makes his transition from home school to middle school even more difficult. Thankfully, a sweet scholarship kid, Jack Will (Noah Jupe, just seen in Suburbicon), wants to be Auggie’s pal. While Auggie is the center of the film, and of the Pullman family, Wonder generously and sympathetically shares the stories of other characters, like Auggie’s caring, neglected sister, Via (Izabela Vidovic).
Auggie’s tale sounds seriously syrupy, and while it is emotionally sticky, the film avoids the clichéd pitfalls that trap so many other, similarly well-intentioned tearjerkers, making Wonder less single-mindedly effective at eliciting waterworks. Its star power helps; Julia Roberts practically glows as Auggie’s long-suffering mother, and Owen Wilson is goofily keen as his dear old dad.
Stephen Chbosky, who wrote and directed The Perks of Being a Wallflower, best be careful before he’s known as the YA guy; still, he is exceptionally good at wrangling these more-complex-than-they-seem tales of teenage (or younger) angst.