Movies like Wonder basically have “emotional button-pushing” baked into their very DNA. It’s the story of a young boy with facial disfigurement who is entering the fifth grade in a public school for the first time, trying to find friends, all while enduring the cruelties of other children. It has the obvious potential to be mawkish, sentimental pap—and god help us, we’re probably going to cry like newborn babies the second it starts, regardless of any cheap tactics, damn it all.
Still, there’s some hope for optimism here. It’s co-written and directed by Stephen Chbosky, the man behind the refreshingly blunt The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. It’s got solid talent like Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson as the parents, Daveed Diggs as a teacher, and suddenly omnipresent Jacob Tremblay (Room, Before I Wake, Shut In, The Book Of Henry, the forthcoming The Predator) as the main kid. But it’s hard to imagine a way this film doesn’t at least partially indulge in some manipulative theatrics almost by definition, given the subject material. It looks more than anything like a grade-school version of Peter Bogdanovich’s 1985 weepie Mask, another film that all but dared you not to get choked up despite doing its damnedest to avoid maudlin melodrama. Wonder comes to theaters November 17, and tears will presumably well up in your eyes several minutes later, unless you can somehow stifle them, you monster, you.