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Director: Stephen Chbosky
Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson
Length: 1hr 53m
Family schmultz ahoy. In 2012, Stephen Chbosky's coming-of-age sleeper hit The Perks of Being a Wallflower surprised audiences with its fresh take on a tired genre. Now, Chbosky's new film Wonder aims at similar rejuvenation of the same genre, focusing instead on a younger age group.
The story centres on Auggie, a young boy with a facial deformity from birth. He's going to school for the first time and fears bullying, loneliness and being confirmed in his role as an outcast that has plagued his life thus far. His family fear the same and we stand beside them and watch this new chapter in Auggie's life unfold.
Jacob Tremblay (Room) is Auggie and proves once again his calibre as an up and coming actor. He plays the character with just the right balance of resignation and hope and his voicework is really well done. There are also fun turns from both Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson as Auggie's parents - they are quiet roles but the relationship between them is instantly believable, a credit to their acting chops.
The film is, as expected, a sickly sweet heart-warmer sprinkled with light moments of drama - some would say a perfect combination for this time of year. It's cheesy and crowd-pleasing and very forgettable, but often that's exactly what festive cinemagoers want. None of this is an excuse for some of the dialogue though, which at times is just plain awful, as is some of the child acting from the supporting cast. A brief introduction of a multiple voiceover technique was welcome, feeling like a fresh way of approaching a story of predictable ebbs and flows. However, this was quickly thrown by the wayside in favour of a more conventional, but decidedly less interesting to watch, narrative mode.
There's lots of potential here, with a glimpse or two of Chbosky's talent as a writer and director. Although, if you're looking for a fresh take on the coming-of-age genre, without the saccharine sweetness, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is still a better bet.