A Month of Wonder at the Cineplex

Studios often release two movies on the same subject at the same time but this month, for some reason, we have three movies with Wonder in the title. My husband and I have seen two of them but will pass on the third.

Wonder

Julia Roberts, Wonder movie, Owen Wilson, RJ PalacioBased on the New York Times bestseller, by R.J. Palacio, Wonder tells the story of August (Augie) Pullman, a boy born with genetic facial deformities. He’s been home schooled for the first four grades but now enters fifth grade in a mainstream elementary school. Walking into school as the new kid in town is tough enough but imagine what it would be like if your face resembled pieces of a poorly assembled jigsaw puzzle.

Augie just wants to be a normal kid and learn new things from teachers who are not his mother. We would like to believe in the intrinsic goodness of children who accept someone who looks very different as a matter of course. But, really, even though this is a prep school, the fifth graders at Beecher Prep are still kids with little tolerance for a very strange new classmate.

Meanwhile, his sister, like many siblings of disabled children, would like to have a family life that does not center around her brother and in which her parents can find some time for her.

We saw this movie with our granddaughters (8 and 6) because it was their first choice (over Coco). They were as engrossed in it as we were. I hope it gave them a teachable moment and something to think about once we left the theater.

A good cast gives excellent performances, the pacing works, and the script is, for once, intelligent. The Associated Press calls Wonder, “the sleeper hit of the season” with good reason.

Recommendation: Go see Wonder. You will like it. Take your kids or grandkids, if you have them.

Tomatometer:

  • Critics: 85% Fresh
  • Audiences: 91% Liked

Wonderstruck

This movie gives us something completely different—a wolf of a different color—that pulls together two stories in told in different centuries. A newly orphaned 21st century boy travels alone to Manhattan to find the father he has never known and about whom his late mother would not speak. A 20th century girl escapes from a father with no tolerance for her deafness and flees to Manhattan to connect with her celebrity mother, who has no time for a child. It’s based on the graphic novel by Brian Selznick.

Wonderstruck, Julianne MooreThe two stories, both engrossing, interweave with one another, gradually drawing closer until we can (unfortunately) figure out the ending before the big reveal. Still, it’s satisfying. Not since Night at the Museum has the American Museum of Natural History looked so good.

In this time when children are not allowed to walk home from school or go trick-or-treating alone, the idea of kids on their own in the big bad city strikes us as appalling. Both Ben and Rose possess considerable smarts, however. They figure things out on their own despite a few mistakes and with the help of a major coincidence.

Critics have little tolerance for anything resembling sentimentality but I have no problems with it. I wonder what our granddaughters would have made of Wonderstruck.

Recommendation: See Wonderstruck, especially if you like coming-of-age stories. Bring your older kids.

Tomatometer:

  • Critics: 72% Fresh
  • Audiences: 68% Liked

Wonder Wheel

This one, named for the giant Ferris wheel at Coney Island, is the 2017 offering from Woody Allen, who churns out a movie every year. Once big fans of his films, we gave up on them years ago and haven’t caught one at the theater since Blue Jasmine four years ago and Vicky Christina Barcelona five years before that.

Wonder Wheel movie, Woody Allen, Coney Island, Ferris wheel, carouselMr.. Allen began to creep me out with 1995’s Mighty Aphrodite, in which he plays a man who has sex with the birth mother of his adopted son, who is a prostitute and a porn actress. She’s also much younger and the sight of this shriveled would-be lover next to her made my skin crawl. At the time, I thought the cause was that Mr. Allen had not yet figured out he had grown too old to play the “romantic” lead.

In 1999’s Sweet and Lowdown, he made the case that great artists should be treated differently than ordinary mortals because their art gives them a moral and ethical leeway that excuses bad behavior.  This revelation came, of course, after the scandal of him marrying Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter and Mr. Allen’s step-daughter. It didn’t help that I find Sean Penn as creepy as Woody Allen.

Since then, we have heard accusations of child molestation from another step-daughter and the couple’s son, Ronan Farrow. Enough is enough.

While I like Coney Island (the place), I have small interest in seeing Mr. Allen’s latest apologia. A lifeguard seduces the wife of a middle-aged carousel operator and then falls in love first with her (much younger) step-daughter. I am not the only one to see art imitating life here.

The critics have savaged Wonder Wheel for its bad acting, pretentious script, turgid dialogue, and unpleasant characters—among other things. They get paid to see movies like this. I won’t pay to see it.

Recommendation: Avoid Wonder Wheel because it’s a bad movie and because it’s time the chickens came home to roost for Woody Allen.

Tomatometer:

  • 42% Rotten
  • 57% Liked

I have not written much about the movies lately because I have been preoccupied with the whole sexual harassment/workplace violence situation. But we have been going to the theater. I’ll try to publish some more recommendations (or not) soon.

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