STUDENT-FRIENDLY MOVIE REVIEW: Wonder
SPECIAL NOTE: Here at Every Movie Has a Lesson, I do my best to write professional grade film criticism fit for a formal audience, becoming best friends with a thesaurus and using my big boy words. By day though, I'm an elementary school educator working with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. At work this year, I've been assisting the fifth-grade teachers in organizing a special field trip to see "Wonder" in theaters after they've been reading the novel in class all fall. I'm even going to teach them how to write a film review afterward. Let me tell you they are stoked! This second "student-friendly" movie review of "Wonder" is for them and other younger readers out there. Revised, this review scales down my formal film review down from an 11.6 Flesch Kincaid readability level to a comfy 4.4 average. Enjoy!
Do you remember your parts of speech? Adjectives add attention. The more colorful the better. Verbs are the action. They are the center of every sentence. The other words in a sentence orbit around the verb. Changing the verb can add depth. It makes the simple into something more complex. It can make all the difference in a statement. The main lesson of R.J. Palacio’s novel Wonder shows the power of certain verbs. The film follows the book in that way.
LESSON #1: CHOOSE KINDNESS-- There is a difference between the verbs “be” and “choose.” The book says “when given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” “Be kind” feels like a suggestion of behavior. Making actual choices is greater. Think, reflect, and act with choices based on kindness. The difference is powerful. The difference is then on purpose. Be a bigger person through small acts of kindness.
Wonder’s messages are a jolt of empathy kids need to hear and see. The film works to inspire audiences for years to come. Wonder is an instant classic. It is sure to become a new family favorite. It is a very good example of a film doing justice by its book.
August “Auggie” Pullman is played by Room star Jacob Tremblay. His character was born with Treacher Collins disorder. He has had 27 different surgeries to better his life. Auggie may not look like everyone else, but he is a regular kid. He is a Star Wars nut and loves science. He is stepping into fifth grade at a real school after being taught by his mother Isabel (Julia Roberts) at home. She and her husband Nate (Owen Wilson) fear what people will think about Auggie. They pray for the best to send him to Beecher Prep. It is Auggie’s time to join kids his own age.
He finds many classmates and only few friends. Jack Will (Noah Jupe) is called a “good egg.” Charlotte (Elle McKinnon) is a dreaming child actress. Summer (Millie Davis) brings sympathy. Lastly, there is the spoiled rich kid Julian (Bryce Gheisar). They don’t know what to make of Auggie. Their stares say it all. Auggie's teachers like Mr. Browne and Ms. Petosa (Daveed Diggs and Ali Liebert) are supportive. He impresses them with his smarts and talent. School is still unpredictable. Auggie tries often to fit in. He looks for conversation. The trouble is he is treated with fear and bullying.
LESSON #2: BULLYING IS WRONG IN ANY FORM-- Many people judge people by their looks. They see ugly and not the inside heart of others. Children can be worse than adults with this. They can be too honest and not think about feelings. Bullying is never right. It should be called out when it happens. Friends should help stop it where they can. Put away the hate. Be a valuable friend and not a worthless bully.
Wonder matches the way the book tells its story. The story changes points of view. It uses many narrators. The school year is divided into sections. Each chapter is titled for one event or character. Their stories link and push the movie along. Wonder becomes more than a one-kid show. It shows more family moments this way. The movie shows more life experiences too. The layers are brilliant.
One of those chapters belongs to Via. She is Auggie’s older sister in high school. She is played by Izabela Vidovic. Via has been very understanding of Auggie’s needs. Her parents look past her too often. She is facing her own issues at school. Her best friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell) begins to hang out with other people. She misses her loving grandmother (Sonia Braga). On the bright side, she falls for a theater guy named Justin (Nadji Jeter).
All of the movie’s growth leads back to Auggie. Jacob Tremblay is a talented actor. He was up for awards two years ago in Room. He is excellent again with many emotions. Most of all, Jacob shows innocence and heart. Even under makeup, Jacob’s smile can bring great joy. Julia Roberts adds strength as his mother. Owen Wilson is a likable dad. Both parents show warmth to love. Pack a box of tissues!
Negative people will call this movie corny. Let them try. Wonder brings real and pure emotions. The acting works with sweetness. The layers of the story make the drama interesting. It all comes down to choices. Wonder gets everything right as a movie. Its morals fit the present time. The tone is honest and feels good. Most of all, the passion is inspiring.
LESSON #3: THE DEFINITION OF "WONDER"-- The dictionary says “wonder” means “something strange and surprising.” We watch Auggie hide in his astronaut helmet and become more open. He gains confidence against bullying. He achieves big goals with hard work. Auggie’s actions match the definition of “wonder.” His heart does too.