Rated PG, 113 minutes
The appealing, heart-tugging new drama "Wonder" will give you a heavy helping of kindness and a side of schmaltz to go with it. Based on R.J. Palacio's novel of the same name, it's well-acted yet pulls few surprises, reminding you of why you carry an extra helping of tissues to films like this.
August "Auggie" Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) is a young boy born with a facial deformity who has been in and out of hospitals for years. With the help of his mother, Isabel (Julia Roberts), and his father, Nate (Owen Wilson), he tries to fit in at a new school, Beecher Prep, and to show everyone he is just an ordinary kid and that beauty is not just on the outside.
The charming and touching "Wonder" is directed by "The Perks of Being a Wallflower's" Stephen Chbosky and is co-written by Chbosky, Jack Thome and Steve Conrad tells of the trevails of young Auggie (played with heart by "Room's" Tremblay, who's excellent here under a load of realistic make up), a boy with a rare facial deformity who goes to public school for the first time, at the encouragement of his parents, warmly played by Wilson and Oscar-winner Roberts.
The best part about "Wonder" is not just about overcoming obstacles, but it also takes time to explore Auggie's challenges as they affect others: his friend Jack Will (newcomer Noah Jupe, the best part about the recent Clooney misfire "Suburbicon"), his neglected sister Via ("The Fosters" Izabela Vidovic, great here) and even his sister's friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell), who has her own issues. It also has a terrific cameo from lovely character actress Sonia Braga as a kindly grandmother who knew who her favorite child was.
The final act of "Wonder" is its weakest and most sentimental, when director Chbosky tries to tie all its subplots up too neatly in a group hug sort of way (not to mention something happens to an important family member that will require use of those tissues you will have with you).
"Wonder" isn't all that surprising, but it still comes recommended and is a touching reminder of the importance of kindness in our lives.