A Wrinkle in Time (2018)
Be a warrior
I don’t know about you, but the thought of seeing Oprah Winfrey as a giant God-like entity (with loud, garish eyebrows) doesn’t exactly entice me to go and see A Wrinkle in Time, the new film based on Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved 1962 children’s fantasy novel, which was always considered hard to adapt and went on to spawn four follow-up stories. Now look, not many people know this, but this is actually the second time that L’Engle’s material has been botched via live-action, ABC producing a 251-minute turd back in 2003 that Disney went on to trim down to 128 minutes for their Home Video DVD release. Just to give you a taste of how bad this thing is, click here to check out a screenshot, but be warned, your lunch might come straight back up. Anyhow, this updated version isn’t much better, regardless of the talent involved, as (this latest) A Wrinkle in Time is a dull, suspenseless slog with shoddy effects, a sluggish pace and next-to-no thrills or spills (unless someone in the audience happens to shit their pants).
The movie centers on Meg Murry (Storm Reid), a 13-year-old girl who lives with her black mother Kate (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and her adopted mixed-race little brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe). You see, just like everyone else in her family, Meg is intellectually gifted, but has digressed since the disappearance of her white scientist father, Dr. Alexander Murry (Chris Pine), who’d vanished four years ago, after having a breakthrough in his astrophysics research, the scientist believing that he’d found a way to travel vast distances by using the human mind (yep, it sounds kinda dumb, but maybe it worked better in the book). The nerdy Meg is also getting into trouble at school, winding up at the principal’s office after retaliating against bully Veronica Kiley (Rowan Blanchard), the popular girl in her class.
Everything changes when Charles Wallace invites an eccentric redhead, named Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), into the Murry household late one night, the stranger rambling and ranting about tesseracts and intergalactic travel, hinting that their dad might still be alive, trapped somewhere in the cosmos. The very next day, Charles Wallace forces Meg and her smittin’ classmate Calvin (Levi Miller) into the ramshackle home of yet another odd soul, who calls herself Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and speaks only in quotes. It isn’t until the two women, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who, appear in Meg’s backyard, that the eldest and most powerful of the over-dressed deities, Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), makes herself visible, the three revealing themselves to be astral travelers who can jump through dimensions by exploiting a fold in space and time, which they call tessering. And just like that, the kids embark on a rescue mission across galaxies to find Meg’s father (casually agreeing to go like they’re taking a trip to the Mall), the children having to face forced sentimentality and a malevolent energy plotting to devour the universe known as The IT (voiced by David Oyelowo), its home planet a black blob called Camazotz.
It pains me to report that A Wrinkle in Time, the first blockbuster directed by Ava DuVernay — and the first helmed by a woman of color — isn’t nearly as successful as the rest of her back catalog, which includes the likes of 2014’s Selma and the Oscar-nominated documentary 13th (2016), this most likely due to a number of factors. Firstly, the screenplay by Jeff Stockwell, Bridge to Terabithia (2007), and Jennifer Lee, Frozen (2013), is out-and-out boring, the writers altering key parts of L’Engle’s story, packing their script with expository scenes that lack tension or flow; there are more holes in this thing than there are in my Gloria Jean’s loyalty card. For instance, at the start of the third act Charles Wallace vanishes just as Meg and Calvin attempt to outrun the big, black evil. He then reappears straight after said sequence without so much as an explanation (the heck?).
Moreover, the planets that our protagonists visit are flat and devoid of life, these worlds missing the creativity and wonder needed to elevate a cosmic/ dimension-hopping adventure such as this; sure, Reese Witherspoon transforms into a weird flying cabbage, but considering that we’re traversing the galaxy, the only other lifeforms we meet are a bunch of sentient flowers that ‘speak color’ (whatever the hell that means), a nasty splotch, and a miscast Zach Galifianakis, who portrays a Yoda-type crackpot in a robe known as The Happy Medium (I’m honestly not sure what he’s supposed to be). Just on that, the VFX work in The Happy Medium’s lair are so bad, one would think they were watching an amateur student film or telly movie, this sequence not up to the standard of other 100-million-dollar-plus productions. On top of all this, we’re constantly reminded that Meg is brilliant, beautiful and talented, and needs to accept her faults if she wishes to find her father. Okay, we get it. No need to keep repeating it. And oh, the soundtrack features Sia. Yep, it’s that kinda film!
Performances are a mixed bag, some great, others awkward, shonky and even downright deplorable. Storm Reid, Sleight (2016), makes for a unique lead and does a good enough job as protagonist Meg, the young actress sharing a believable father-daughter dynamic with her committed co-star Chris Pine, Wonder Woman (2017). The charismatic Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blonde (2001), who changes costume and make-up incessantly, stands as another of the film’s virtues, the 42-year-old being the only performer who’s aware that she’s in a children’s film. ‘Queen of Talk’ Oprah Winfrey looks as though she’s dressed for the year’s worst costume party and delivers some of the movie’s most cringe-worthy lines, i.e. ‘The only thing faster than light is the darkness,’ whilst the other Mrs. What’s-her-name, Mindy Kaling, Inside Out (2015), has little to do or say, bar recite lines from famous thinkers. Lastly, newcomer Deric McCabe is completely miscast as the kid with two first names, Charles Wallace, the young’un unable to live up to the demands of the role. And don’t get me started on an awkward cameo by Michael Peña, Ant-Man (2015), who looks like a reject from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010).
Running at a slight 109 minutes, A Wrinkle in Time bites off more than it can chew, filmmakers sticking their fingers into too many pies and ruining the meal completely — the movie fails as a coming-of-age story, a philosophical adventure and a teen romance. But look, at the end of the day, everyone’s entitled their one dud; let’s just hope Ava DuVernay bounces back with her next tentpole project, DC’s The New Gods, so that we can all rid our minds of this cinematic turkey.
2 / 5 – Average
Reviewed by Mr. Movie
A Wrinkle in Time is released through Disney Australia