Sandy Kenyon reviews 'Wonder'-ful movie

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A movie based on a NY Times bestseller opens this weekend, and "Wonder" is the heartwarming story of a boy with physical challenges going to elementary school for the first time. But it is also getting lots of buzz for the teaming of two stars.

One is an established box office A lister, while the other is a young actor who wowed critics with his performance in the movie "Room."

I can't think of a better movie for your family to see together than "Wonder," which in so many ways lives up to the meaning of its title. It could have been trite, but instead, it is transformative.

You will be filled with wonder and joy after seeing the talented cast bring to life the best-selling book about a boy who is reluctant to show his face at a new school because of the way he was born. Augie knows he's not an ordinary 10-year-old kid, and since he's been home schooled thus far, he's pretty much petrified to be going into fifth grade.

In 2015's "Room," Jacob Tremblay proved he was one of the most talented child actors in the world. And he's the perfect choice to play the young boy born with a face that is dramatically different from other children. His mother, played by Julia Roberts, tells him, "You are not ugly, Augie." But, through tears, he replies, "You just have to say that because you're my mom."

With the support of his dad, played by Owen Wilson, Augie must face a class full of youngsters who mostly shun him, though a teacher played by Hamilton's Daveed Diggs does his best to help and inspire.

Given how much talk there is about bullying, the movie is especially relevant, since Augie is constantly called to account for his odd appearance. One older kid taunts him in an especially cruel manner, by saying,"I've never seen anything that ugly in my whole life."

By the end, the movie is helpful and heartwarming because it shows the value of simple kindness. One girl chooses to sit with Augie at lunch when others won't, "because I want some nice friends for a change."

The story is told from multiple perspectives. We see Augie's point of view, but also his sister's. She is an older girl with a good heart who often gets ignored because her parents are so focused on her brother's many challenges.

Not since "Mask" was released more than 30 years ago has there been such a thoughtful depiction of what are now called "facial differences." As "Wonder" tells us, "You can't blend in when you were born to stand out."

The movie lists three separate writers on the credits, and there are times when the seams of the script show. The many, different drafts stitched together are obvious and the flow of the film isn't that smooth.

But too few pictures today leave one with such a warm glow, and that's why I can recommend this one.
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