If you’ve seen the charming trailers for the new movie “Wonder,” you may think you’ve already seen the film. You may think it’s a predictable feel-good story you’ve seen before in various other forms.
And you would be wrong.
Yes, “Wonder” is a feel-good story, but there’s a lot more to it than that. In fact, what could very well be the best movie I’ve seen this year is a Rosetta Stone for explaining why I’m a conservative.
See, conservatism isn’t a political ideology as much as it’s an observational science. It’s the process of critically observing human nature and human history and allowing those to guide you in determining what values and traditions have proven worthy of conservation for this and future generations.
Virtually all of those values and traditions are celebrated in “Wonder.”
Now, don’t let my affinity for the film’s ideals take away from the quality of the filmmaking. Its main character, Auggie, is a younger version of Rocky in “Mask.” Not just his, but his entire family’s story is told in the slick fashion of “Juno.” And the movie’s message is reminiscent of Frank Capra’s eternal classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Yes, that is some high praise, and “Wonder” deserves every syllable of it.
Along the way, the following values and traditions are highlighted and celebrated by “Wonder”:
- The dignity of every human person.
- The traditional family, including the crucial complementary roles that can only be fulfilled by a mother and a father.
- Sacrificial love.
- Suffering for one another and bearing one another’s burdens.
- Personal responsibility.
In other words, what makes “Wonder” so charming and enduring are the same things that drive my conservatism. I simply seek to conserve that which has been revealed to be what’s best for our humanity — regardless of race, gender, nationality, ethnicity, or socio-economic status. For these are the things that transcend all those distinctions we use to divide ourselves and diminish one another.
Cosmically speaking, these things are the image of our Creator, in whose image we are all fearfully and wonderfully made.
When “Wonder” was over, I didn’t want it to be. I wanted to spend more time with these people, precisely because they weren’t perfect and didn’t always handle life’s challenges with the clichés found on a greeting card. They were real, although the film is fiction. They were so real that if you can get out of seeing “Wonder” without getting misty-eyed at least once, you’re not of this world and probably Vulcan.
I can’t say enough good things about “Wonder” other than to add this one final thing. IMDB estimates the movie was made for $20 million, but it’s already made more than three times that at the box office. Furthermore, the local theater I saw it at yesterday with my family was nearly sold out for an early Sunday afternoon matinee.
Let that be a lesson to Hollywood.
As all the fig leaves that for too long covered the seedy underbelly of that town are painfully being ripped away with each day’s headlines, movies like “Wonder” are its first necessary — yet rewarding — steps toward repentance. It’s a throwback to a time when these values were accepted and striven for, regardless of party affiliation, rather than politicized or propagandized as partisan talking points, only to then be forgotten after Election Day, of course.
We don’t have to agree on global warming or health care policy to agree on what “Wonder” stands for. Heck, we can even vehemently disagree on those things and fight it out in the political arena, where such policy disputes belong.
But for too long we’ve conflated the existential basis of our way of life with public policy disputes. Or worse, we’ve made the existential basis of our way of life the basis of our public policy disputes. That is a road to nowhere — a black hole that ends with no winners, only losers.
Thankfully, the success of “Wonder” shows we need not be destined to pursue that cultural dead end. Nor are we consigned to the ash heap of history like lemmings going over the cliff. I have no idea how everyone in that packed theater yesterday voted in last year’s election, and while watching “Wonder,” it never occurred to me to ask.
We were all cheering and crying at the same time.