PG, mainly because this movie is really aimed at kids. It isn't even attempting to appeal to adults. I think that's what the rating system really is. It is not a content censor, so much as "This is who the movie is for." It doesn't matter how appropriate the movie actually is. In this case, you'd be a monster if you thought it was PG-13. The movies and its audience is allowed to publicly judge you.
DIRECTOR: Stephen Chbosky
This movie, guys. Like, this movie. People don't know this, but I might actually be a bad person. Whenever I get tricked into clicking an Upworthy video, it asks me if I want orphans to be eaten by sharks or something. You know what I say? "Yes." Every. Time. Heck, I'll cook them up first because I hate emotional manipulation. I can't stand it. Oh my goodness, this movie just gets me grumpy. I know. I'm taking a stand against the movie about the kid with a facial deformity, but got really excited about Black Panther. I'm a bad person and everyone should absolutely know it.
I watched it because it got a makeup credit. I don't know why I think that the technical awards are good movies. I keep getting lower and lower on that list and assume that the movie is still going to have the same quality as the awards higher in that list. It's silly. But I know that Wonder is a pretty popular novel and my daughter is reading it. I read the first twenty pages and it isn't terrible, especially considering that it is aimed for kids. But the movie wrecks what little goodwill I have going for this movie. First of all, the subject matter could be handled well. I've seen this story before. Admittedly, I haven't seen the specific subject matter handled before, mainly because I'm instantly associating it with Man Without a Face. (Remember that one? You thought I was going to go with Elephant Man or Mask. Nope, Mel Gibson. Man Without a Face.) But the big problem with Wonder is that it is not exactly aiming for a unity or for interpretation. It is going for the cry-and-feel-better moments. These problems are not the problems that Auggie would actually have. Rather, they seem overwhelming, but they are completely contextualized in a world that acts nothing like our real world. I think I'm going to have to go into SPOILERS, mainly because I don't think anyone is on the fence about renting this movie. I highly doubt that I'm the lynch pin that decides who sees this movie and who doesn't. Auggie's problems are real. I don't mind a story about a boy who has Auggie's deformity. I think there's probably a bit of meat in there (pun definitely not intended). Even reading the book, the content is the same, but I don't get the same tone. It's just that the world adapts to Auggie's condition in the most Hollywoodish way I've seen in a long time. This movie doesn't belong in 2017. This is a 1993 movie if I've ever seen one. The movie is loaded with tropes and archetypes and the movie coasts on those tropes and archetypes. Rich bully? Yup. Does he learn his lesson about friendship by the end? Sure. Best friend messes up big time? Okay. Do they forgive each other? Yes. There's actually a scene towards the end of this movie where Auggie is given an award (that the audience has yet to hear about before this point) for being an outstanding student. The entire student body claps and cheers for Auggie. C'mon. Everybody claps for Auggie? For coming to school? The principal, played by great actor / real life demon Mandy Patinkin, actually states that the award normally goes to that student who does the most service. How much would it suck to be that kid? You bust your hump all year to help others and the one time you thought you might get a "thank you", the kid who everyone's always paying attention to gets an award for being different looking. No, thank you, movie. Make Auggie a kid who cares about others instead of himself and we have a stew going.
The movie has a cool concept behind it that perhaps could have been executed better. Rather than just focusing on Auggie, which would have been understandable, the movie breaks and shows the events of the film from other people's perspective. I really like this idea. Auggie's life affects others and that's one concept that I haven't really seen explored in depth. The problems with the actual portrayal of these problems is where I kind of get disappointed. Immediately after the character breaks (the movie shows the name of the person to focus on), there is a three minute focus on the events from that character's perspective. When the movie focuses on his sister, Via, the film rewinds and we get her narration about the events going on. But the following sequence of events doesn't necessarily stay on Via. Rather than Rashomoning the whole thing, the movie jumps back to its normal narrative and that chapter really isn't about Via. It just gives a two second wrapup of the events from another perspective. Most of the movie is still about Auggie. There is one character, Jack Will, of whom I'd like to hear more. His name came up and I learned very little about Jack Will's perspective. I just got some of his economic background. It felt a little lazy and didn't really give the message it was trying to convey.
Also, does Owen Wilson have to keep putting down dogs in movies? Sorry, that's all I wanted to say about that.
There is this weird message about the role of parents. I don't know what the movie was really trying to get across. Julia Roberts probably should stop consider playing parents and start transitioning into grandparents. If Selma Hayek is playing Aunt May, Julia Roberts can play fun older aunt. I know. She's only 51. Double standard. But the movie really tried to make Julia Roberts look glamorous and I've never really been a fan of hers. Okay, I really liked her in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. (By the way, I know that me ripping into Julia Roberts is the moment when some people actually agreed that I was a bad person. It's okay that I rip a heartwarming movie about a disfigured kid apart, but Julia Roberts is too far? Who is the bad person now?) But I'm being a hypocrite and I retract everything. Owen Wilson is the same age and I don't know why I had a double standard. In my head, Owen Wilson is 37. He's not. He's 50. I take it all back. But I have bigger problems with the portrayal of Mom. Mom is built to be this complex character. I like that. She's not portrayed as all knowing. She's often frustrated and doesn't know how to handle situations. I like that. This movie has enough feel good moments without adding the perfect mom who knows how to save everyone. Good on you, movie. But you couldn't stick the landing with that characters. There were so many issues brought up about Mom's place in the family. Dad is clearly secured as the good guy. That trope is still there. But Mom is confronted by her daughter for being a negligent mom when it comes to anyone but Auggie. But that problem is quickly resolved when Mom comes to the play. (By the way, the cartwheels that the movie quickly jumps through to get Via into a play were hilariously unrealistic.) Mom and Via have so much to discuss and work through, but the movie implied they were going to be great from that point on. Nope. That's not how that works. All of the characters, that's not how they work. Via as the good sister is cliche. Miranda and Via's breakup being fixed? No. People don't come to those decisions that quickly. Every single choice by Via's boyfriend is the most bizarre. There characters are paper thin. I don't think I've seen flatter characters in a movie before. People don't act the way that the movie Wonder thinks they do and it is frustrating to watch.
The crazy thing is that I'm going to watch this movie again with my kid. She's going to finish the book and I'm going to put a smile on my face and watch it with her. I hate sappy. But I think that Olivia should have sappy from time to time. I hope she questions things, but I'm not going to bring up any of this to her. If she asks if this is how real life happens, I'm going to be an adult and balance the fact that the world can be a really mean place, but it still has wonderful things in it (pun intended). I just can't see the world presented in Wonder as anything close to resembling reality.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.