Based on the bestseller, this film about a 5th grader with a facial deformity doesn’t settle for easy sentimentality

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“Wonder” shows how a film can have heart without being sappy.

Based on R.J. Palacio’s 2012 bestseller, it tells the story of Auggie Pullman (“Room’s” Jacob Tremblay), a 5th-grader with a facial deformity, and the family and friends that make up his world. They include his parents (Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson), his sister, Via (Izabela Vidovic), and his fellow students at school.

Auggie is a “Star Wars”-loving, “Minecraft”-playing, outer space-obsessed youngster who just wants to be a normal kid. His appearance won’t allow it, so he has to navigate his first year at public school with trepidation, and prepare for the reactions that come from his features.

Rather than focusing solely on Auggie, “Wonder” has the good sense to tell the story of those who orbit around him. Via has accepted that she will never get the attention from her parents that Auggie does, but she still has a life to lead, and we follow her budding relationship with fellow classmate Justin (Nadji Jeter) and her sudden breakup with her best friend, Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell). It then spins and lets Miranda tell her tale from her own perspective, creating a web where a full range of characters are explored beyond the surface-level characterizations that usually come in films like this.

Co-writer and director Stephen Chbosky showed he had an interest in digging into the psyche of the adolescent mind in “The Perks of Being a Wildflower,” and here, he again shows his compassion for youth and the difficulties of finding one’s place. “Wonder” could easily be played for tears or easy sentimentality, but Chbosky finds the reality of the situation much more wondrous. You will, too.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

‘Wonder’

GRADE: B+

Rated PG for thematic elements including bullying, and some mild language

Running time: 113 minutes

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