Updated: Apr 17, 2018
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy; 2017; PG for thematic elements including bullying, and some mild profanity; streaming via Amazon Video, Google Play; iTunes (4K), Vudu
Best extra: “Summer of Fun” multi-part documentary
R.J. PALACIO always wanted to be a writer.
She kept journals and created story outlines. Then, eight years ago during a visit to an ice cream parlor with her kids, Palacio had what she called, “a very close encounter” with a child with a severe facial deformity. She wondered what it must be like to “face a world every day that doesn’t know how to face you back” according to the 60-minute “Making of” documentary on Lionsgate’s 4K and Blu-ray discs, and at iTunes.
That night she began writing the story of August “Auggie” Pullman, a ten-year-old born with a craniofacial disorder played by Jacob Tremblay (“Room”). Even after 27 surgeries, his facial features are still startling.
Auggie is science wiz and a Star Wars fanatic; he wears a space helmet everywhere he goes to hide face. He dreads entering fifth grade at Beecher Prep School in Manhattan, because he’s sure he’ll face bullies.
His mom Isabel, played by the reliable Julia Roberts, has been his home-school teacher for the last four years. She’s put her masters' thesis on hold to give Auggie her full attention. Owen Wilson plays dad Nate, who provides a heartwarming comic touch.
Before the book was even published, Hollywood producers were knocking on Palacio’s door. Her “little book with a simple message…. a call to kindness for students, teachers and parents” became a siren’s call. Writer/director Stephen Chbosky (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) reveals he cried at least a dozen times during his first reading. “It’s a beautiful blueprint for empathy,” he says.
The story follows Auggie’s life-changing year at school, while exploring other characters including his older sister Via, played by the Izabela Vidovic. She tells her boyfriend Justin (Nadji Jeter) she’s an only child, even though she feels “Auggie is the sun, and my dad and mom and me are the planets orbiting” him.”
The outstanding support cast includes Mandy Patinkin as Mr. Tushman, the schoolmaster. “It’s a lesson to look at someone’s heart, rather than the package we’re all dressed up in,” Patinkin says. Daveed Diggs is cast as Mr. Browne, an ex-Wall Street broker, who is now one of Auggie’s teachers; Noah Jupe plays classmate Jack Will and Auggie's first friend, who actually sits with him during lunch.
Captured on 6K digital camera (2.40:1 aspect ratio) and then downconverted to 2K for editing and mastering, this is a fine 4K watch from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. Colors are bold and rich in the expanded color palette, especially the scenes filmed along a huge lake near Vancouver, British Columbia, subbing for a nature preserve in Pennsylvania. Facial toning is without excess reds or orange, and the HDR contrast levels have deeper blacks and controlled highlights in the HDR10 and Dolby Vision.
Overall clarity on the 4K and Blu-ray are both excellent, with a slight uptick in detail from the 4K most evident in wide shots and extreme close-ups.
The 4K and Blu-ray are both coded with the Dolby TrueHD eight-channel soundtrack, a perfect match for this dialogue-driven film. The quiet and reserved score is from Brazilian composer Marcelo Zarvos (“Fences”). There are also recognizable tunes from White Stripes, Bea Miller, Hannah Faye, and the classic “Monster Mash” from Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt Kickers.
Find an engaging commentary on disc and iTunes, with the author and director. Palacio wrote “Wonder” between midnight and 3 a.m. over 18 months while working at another job and handling mom duties. Chbosky was quick to point out the author, his producers and family members were used as extras in the finale.
The documentary also highlights the Oscar-nominated makeup by Arjen Tuiten (“Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Maleficent”), which required nine-year-old Jacob Tremblay to sit for 90-minutes straight before the cameras started rolling during the 40-day shoot. What a testament to this young actor who completely transformed himself into Auggie.
“Wonder” hits all of the right emotional buttons without getting sappy. Its message – that kindness and love can conquer so much – should be celebrated.
- Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer