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Movie Review of Wonder: A Beautiful Endeavor into What It Really Means to Choose Kind

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Wonder truly captures the essence of uplifting spirits with simplicity; the movie lacks glamour, but still radiates messages of community, bravery and most of all--extraordinary kindness.






https://www.flickr.com/photos/litandmore/7474211050

Wonder truly captures the essence of uplifting spirits with simplicity; the movie lacks glamour, but still radiates messages of community, bravery and most of all--extraordinary kindness. https://www.flickr.com/photos/litandmore/7474211050

Wonder truly captures the essence of uplifting spirits with simplicity; the movie lacks glamour, but still radiates messages of community, bravery and most of all--extraordinary kindness. https://www.flickr.com/photos/litandmore/7474211050

Nina Duffeck, Movie Critic

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Even before Auggie Pullman, played by young Room star Jacob Tremblay, first takes off his beloved astronaut helmet at the start of the movie, the playful and imaginative aura of Wonder dances with the audiences’ emotions. But, director Stephen Chbosky (Perks of Being a Wallflower) creates a powerful juxtaposition with the tender, yet powerfully compelling spirit curated within his screenplay of author R.J. Palacio’s New York Times Bestseller Wonder (2012). This movie does a phenomenal job of creating a movie for audiences young and old, but still exploring passionate concerns that watchers will take with them for a lifetime.

Overt Star Wars cameos and whimsical outer space scenes spill from Auggie’s imagination and onto the screen, but they never take away from the powerful themes of bullying, kindness and acceptance. The shifting narrative provides insight into the motives of the characters who seem to do the wrong thing at some point during the movie.

Wonder first tells the story of Nate and Isabel Pullman’s (Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts) youngest child Auggie, who grapples with his first year of middle school at Beecher Prep — doubles as his first year not homeschooled by his mother. But, once Auggie first pulls off his astronaut helmet, viewers see he is no longer, in his own words, “an ordinary 10 year old.” He has a craniofacial condition called Treacher Collins syndrome and the scars on his face show the result of 27 surgeries. Though sheltered from typical schooling up until this point, Auggie’s immense self-awareness adds a bluntness to his beginning months of school. As he first walks from his parents arms to the doors of Beecher Prep, he knows that people will stare; he knows that kids will not be kind. Even his mother’s words, “Dear God, please make them be nice to him,” hold no reassurance that maybe . . . things would happen differently in this story.

As the audience watches Auggie grow from a harassed, bullied and isolated kid, to a boy confident enough to take off his helmet and show the world who he truly is — they also see into the lives of the people revolving around him. First, the Pullman’s oldest child, Via (Izabela Vidovic) struggling with her own first year of high school. She loses her best friend, falls in love with a drama geek and stars in the school musical — all whilst always coming as an afterthought in her Auggie-centered parents’  minds. The film pages through the lives of Jack Will, Miranda Navas and Julian Albans; all seemingly antagonists at the start of the movie. This unique storyline allows the audience to examine all the characters’ reasons behind why they do what they do.

Some critics, however, feel Wonder poorly portrays how kids would react to Auggie. Reviewer James Berardinelli says that in order to appeal to a larger audience, the movie “glosses over the darker aspects that a story of this sort should address.” He feels this brought a certain “dishonesty” to the film that creators could have portrayed better. Senior Jacob Theisen smiled excitedly when asked about the movie and its emotional effect –“Saying one thing that you don’t think would matter can affect someone drastically . . . that was the biggest take-away,” he said. Though the bullying, physical and otherwise, no where near replicated that of a violent rated R movie, it still held enough power to affect adults and children alike — precisely what a compelling movie like Wonder should do.

In the spring of 2014, Wonder author, R.J. Palacio came to speak to Shattuck Middle School about her novel and the possibility of a movie. Now a senior at NHS, Tanner Shabo recalls all the students listening intently to Palacio’s stories about the book. Shabo says that having the school read the book was “beneficial in the long run” and had a positive atmosphere surrounding it. When Palacio asked the students if they would like to see a boy with the actual condition play Auggie in the movie adaptation, Shabo remembers all the students raising their hands enthusiastically.

Although actor Jacob Tremblay does not have a craniofacial condition, the community of children and adults who do still welcome Wonder with positive and open arms. The Children’s Craniofacial Association, based out of Texas, felt so strongly about Auggie’s story that they created the Choose Kind Initiative where, much like at Shattuck, students read Wonder, then meet and talk with Wonder Kids. These real life Auggie Pullmans get to share their stories and show the world what it means to “Choose Kind.” Youtube vlogger Ally D — mom of Wonder Kid Nolan — had a chance to attend the premiere of the movie and meet the star Jacob Tremblay with her son. Like many other children, Nolan adored the movie, especially the main character Auggie. “Something that he was captivated by immediately, the second Auggie took his helmet off Nolan said . . . He looks just like me,’’Ally D said in a reaction video. She smiles brightly as Nolan sits next to her in his own astronaut helmet. Touched by how her son responded to Wonder, she recommends that everyone go see it as it helps teach everyone, young and old, to be kind.

Viewers cannot help but have a soft spot for this movie as the children stand up for their new friend. Beecher Prep teacher Mr. Browne (Daveed Diggs) says to Auggie’s class: “When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” Auggie Pullman, kind-hearted classmate Summer Dawson and good-intentioned Jack Will all chose kind, and through that, chose right too. No eyes stayed dry in the theatre as Auggie received his school’s honorary medal for “his quiet strength.” Wonder truly captures the essence of uplifting spirits with simplicity; the movie lacks glamour, but still radiates messages of community, bravery and most of all — extraordinary kindness. If moviegoers are looking for a worthwhile, family-friendly film to ring in the new year, Wonder will surely inspire a positive change in the lives of all who see it.

 

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1 Comment

One Response to “Movie Review of Wonder: A Beautiful Endeavor into What It Really Means to Choose Kind”

  1. Leia Hein on February 19th, 2018 2:32 PM

    I have never read Wonder, but I have read many summaries and reviews on it. This is by far the most detailed and insightful review of the book that I have read. It provided a great overview of the book without spoiling too much. The article analyzes the book and movie from different angles and discusses various characters. I appreciate the multiple interviews and responses from different people because they offer unique opinions on the book and the movie. Including the effects that the book had on communities enhances the review by demonstrating its meaningful nature.

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Movie Review of Wonder: A Beautiful Endeavor into What It Really Means to Choose Kind