Wonder

Movie review by
Betsy Bozdech, Common Sense Media
Wonder Movie Poster Image
Earnest, emotional book adaptation has strong messages.
  • PG
  • 2017
  • 113 minutes
 Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 48 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 94 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

No one is ordinary. Who we are on the inside matters more than what we look like on the outside. True friends appreciate you for you who are, not what you look like or the things you have. True friends also stick up for you and empathize with you. It's more important to do what's right than what's popular, but it's also hard to be different sometimes. Everyone has their own issues and problems; just because things look OK on the surface doesn't mean they're not hurting/vulnerable. We can't change how people look, so maybe we can change the way we see. Choose kindness. Aspire to be great.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters in general are well-intentioned and caring, even if they're not perfect. Auggie is brave and stoic in the face of huge challenges; he perseveres even when it's really hard. But he also helps a classmate cheat and doesn't get caught. Jack Will makes big mistakes but learns from them and apologizes. Via struggles to be seen but learns to speak up for herself. Auggie's parents try their hardest to support him, sometimes by letting him take risks and get hurt. Mr. Tushman and Mr. Browne are caring, thoughtful teachers/administrators. Julian is a bully, but even he learns a few things. Most of the main characters are white and apparently quite well-off financially, though there's mention of a student on scholarship, and there are a few supporting characters of color.

Violence

Tween boys get in a fight at school, punching each other and rolling on the ground. A group of tween boys gets in a fight with a group of older kids; the scuffle is brief but intense. Auggie is frequently bullied by cruel/insensitive classmates, usually verbally or via pictures, though he's sometimes also intimidated physically. One character says he'd kill himself if he looked like Auggie. Spoiler alert: A family pet dies, leading to sadness/tears.

Sex

Teens kiss. An adult married couple kisses; it's implied that one gave the other a risque gift (not shown or specified). Mild innuendo.

Language

Infrequent use of words including "shut up," "oh my God," "jerk," "freak," "sucks," "hate," "crappiest," "deformed," "stupid," "junk," "farted." Auggie is called names, including "Darth Hideous" and "Gollum." Jokes related to the principal's last name, Tushman, involve words like "tushie," "butt," "buttface." Burping.

Consumerism

Characters play/interact within Minecraft and talk about it. Other brands/logos seen include Star Wars, NASA, Law & Order, Kinko's, Dirty Dancing, Poland Spring water, Ghostface (from Scream), San Pellegrino, The Wizard of Oz.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A woman going through a hard divorce drinks a lot of wine (and, it's implied, passes out); her teen daughter finishes one of her glasses. Adults drink wine with dinner; one says "Let's get drunk!" during a date-night dinner.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Wonder is an earnest, emotional family drama based on R.J. Palacio's award-winning novel of the same name. It centers on Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a young boy with a genetic facial difference. Auggie meets both cruel bullies and good friends as he attends school for the first time; his supportive family (including his parents, played by Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson) is always there for him -- even when he tries to push them away. The movie has clear positive messages about choosing kindness, appreciating everyone for who they are (rather than what they look like), and true friendship; empathy and perseverance are also strong themes. There's some fighting among tweens/young teens and sad moments involving a loss. Language includes name-calling and insult words like "shut up," "jerk," "freak," and "deformed," as well as an "oh my God" or two. Teens kiss, and adults flirt/exchange mile innuendo. A teen character finishes her mom's abandoned glass of wine after her mom, who's going through a difficult divorce, falls asleep/passes out.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byManal A. November 16, 2017
Adult Written byJayne28 November 17, 2017

Wholesome film with timely messages

I applaud the rare portrayal of a healthy family. It was so refreshing to see parents who love each other; family members who can apologize, shine in their own... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bySamB31 November 15, 2017

An Inspiring Message For All, Excellently Presented!

First of all, I would like to commend the acting (which throughout felt real) of these young actors such as Jacob Tremblay and Noah Jupe who play Auggie and Jac... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bymovielover735 November 15, 2017

This movie truly is a "WONDER"

Amazing movie that everybody should see. No bad stuff at all, only amazing messages. MUST SEE.

What's the story?

In WONDER, August "Auggie" Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) is about to start fifth grade -- marking his first time at a school with other kids, rather than learning at home from his mom, Isabel (Julia Roberts). That would be plenty nerve-wracking on its own, but Auggie has more to worry about than the average new middle schooler: Born with a genetic abnormality, he has a significant facial difference. Twenty-plus surgeries in his short life have left him able to hear, see, and speak like other kids, but he definitely doesn't look like them. And since he can't wear his beloved astronaut helmet all day at school, he has to face them all in person. It's far from easy; kids call him names ("Darth Hideous," "Gollum") and bully him, and even his parents can't talk away the hurt. But Auggie isn't the only one facing challenges: His older sister, Via (Izabela Vidovic), feels like their parents (Isabel and Nate, played by Owen Wilson) barely pay attention to her because Auggie needs so much from them. His new friend, Jack Will (Noah Jupe), genuinely likes Auggie but doesn't know how to speak up for him in school. Via's former best friend, Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell), seems tough on the outside but is grappling with difficult family issues. And even bully Julian (Bryce Gheisar) has his own problems. As Auggie navigates his first year of school, he -- and all the people around him -- learn to think more of others and find happiness inside themselves.

Is it any good?

Based on R.J. Palacio's hugely popular, award-winning novel, this drama is earnest and sweet, with great messages about kindness, friendship, and acceptance for its tween target audience. Whether they've read the book or not, kids are sure to appreciate Wonder's take on how hard it can be to fit in and feel good about yourself, no matter what you look like. By mirroring the book's structure and giving viewers first-person glimpses of how the world looks to characters other than Auggie (Via, Miranda, and Jack Will all get their moments), director Stephen Chbosky helps build empathy, which is an invaluable skill for viewers of all ages. That said, the perspective-switching isn't consistent enough for it to totally work as a storytelling device in the film; plot details are brought up and then not really given closure, and the choice of why some characters get to tell their own stories while others don't isn't really clear.

But thanks to an emotionally resonant script and strong performances by the cast, quibbles like that can be mostly ignored. Roberts and Wilson are well-matched as Auggie and Via's parents, Tremblay emotes well even under heavy prosthetics and makeup, and Vidovic pulls off the challenge of playing a moody teen without making you roll your eyes at her. In the supporting cast, Hamilton's Daveed Diggs is engaging as Auggie's believably inspiring teacher, Mr. Browne; Mandy Patinkin is all grandfatherly charm as school director Mr. Tushman; and Jupe is excellent as Auggie's friend Jack Will. A scene in which he reacts to the aftermath of a hallway fight is an astounding bit of child acting. In the end, while it's not hard to see where Wonder is going, getting there is a valuable, uplifting journey, especially for kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the other kids react to Auggie in Wonder. What do they learn about him over the course of the movie? What do you think you'd do in their position?

  • How does being bullied affect Auggie? How did you feel about Julian by the time the movie was over? What role does peer pressure play in some of the bullying? How would you handle the situation that Jack Will faces?

  • How does the story show the importance of empathy and perseverance? Why are those important character strengths?

  • If you've read the book, how do you think the movie compares? Which parts were the same? Which were different?

  • How do you think this story might be different if the characters weren't, in general, so privileged? What advantages does Auggie have based on his background? Is it OK that he's portrayed by an actor who doesn't have a facial difference in real life?

Movie details

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