A little more than two weeks ago a friend who’d recently seen Stephen Chbosky‘s Wonder (Lionsgate, 11.17), a little-kid-with-a-disfigured-face movie with Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay, said it was “better than expected” and that he was “surprised at how likable it was.”

This afternoon Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman posted a similar opinion. He’s saying, in fact, that in the realm of disfigured protagonist dramas, Wonder belongs in the company of David Lynch‘s The Elephant Man and Peter Bogdanovich‘s Mask.

“It’s an honest feel-good movie” and “a very tasteful heart-tugger…a drama of disarmingly level-headed empathy that glides along with wit, assurance, and grace. Of all the films this year with ‘wonder’ in the title (Wonderstruck, Wonder Woman, Wonder Wheel, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women), this is the one that comes closest to living up to the emotional alchemy of that word.”

The downside, says Gleiberman, is that “the film never upsets the apple cart of conventionality” and therefore “lacks the pricklier edges of art.”