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Review: Wonder is big-hearted but emotionally manipulative

Jacob Tremblay and Julia Roberts in Wonder.

Dale Robinette

2 out of 4 stars

Written by
Stephen Chbosky, Steven Conrad, Jack Thorne (based on the R.J. Palacio novel Wonder)
Directed by
Stephen Chbosky
Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson

Woof, woof. In the big-hearted but shamelessly sentimental Wonder, no tear is left unjerked, which means (spoiler alert) the family dog fails to make it to the end credits. Owen Wilson cries, but audiences will more likely roll their eyeballs at writer-director Stephen Chbosky's outrageous emotional manipulations.

Wonder stars Room actor Jacob Tremblay as Auggie, a chipper-voiced preadolescent who is born with a genetic defect that left him with facial differences that multiple surgeries could not fully correct. He's a sweet, brainy, home-schooled kid with angelic, warmhearted parents (played by Wilson and Julia Roberts). They decide it's time to send their previously sheltered son to a prep school, where he's inevitably bullied.

Eventually (and predictably) he wins over his classmates with his precociousness and good nature. The story is told uniquely, with chapters on the lives of those in Auggie's orbit to provide an everyone-hurts perspective. Comparisons will be made to Peter Bogdanovich's Mask, but where that film surrounds its goo with edgy surfaces, Wonder is full-on tender. And by the time the pooch is put to sleep, audiences might be nodding off as well.

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