A WRINKLE IN TIME Review: 3 out of 10 (A Far-Flung Fantasy Flop)
A WRINKLE IN TIME is a far-flung fantasy that has high ideals about its visuals, messaging, and story. Unfortunately, most of this film is too wrapped up in those notions to create an immersive narrative and isn’t self-aware enough to know that most of these attempts don’t work and a few are outright laughable. However, for those who have been waiting for ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT OPRAH this might be your movie.
The movie is directed by Ava DuVernay from a screenplay by Jennifer Lee, based on the 1962 novel. The film stars Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña, Storm Reid, Zach Galifianakis, and Chris Pine, and follows a young girl Meg Murry (Storm Reid) who works with her highly intelligent younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), her new friend and fellow student Calvin O'Keefe(Levi Miller), and three astral travelers, Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who (Winfrey, Witherspoon, and Kaling) to save him. The film doesn’t offer any explanation or exposition to the ideas behind cosmic travel, astral travelers, and even *why* these three are offering to help. Further, it seems a great evil is gathering through the Universe. That evil is called “IT” (not the clown) and there seem to be all sorts of dastardly implications that IT might offer…but mostly it is just Doom and bad feelings. So as Meg and Charles Wallace (always referred to by both names, curiously so) and Meg’s crush Calvin move through the galaxy (?) to track down her father the film goes from a potential fantasy film with some head-scratcher moments to a complete mess of a movie that soon becomes totally incoherent. The audience may want to stick with the film waiting for a few explanations along the way. There won’t be any coming. Even the presence of these astral projections of Mrs. Who, Which, and Whatsit are inexplicable. They seem to have all sorts of mysterious power but are unable to do much to actually *help* Meg in her journey. And when the opportunity comes to give gifts to help Meg retrieve her father, Oprah just gives a command instead: “Stay Together”… which they promptly ignore. It seems that these three “powerful” women are little more than cardboard cutouts of inspirational poster memes. (Also, if they are each listed as Mrs., then who exactly are these women married to? Would a sequel to the film have a 50-foot Stedman? Inquiring minds…)
Meg does offer a nice role model as a young woman of color who is looking to find her own inner confidence and power. Young Storm Reid has a nice performance here that shows real promise. Unfortunately, little Charles Wallace doesn’t fare nearly as well. Several lines from the character are not delivered well, some are very rushed or are not enunciated or are overly enunciated. Young McCabe badly needed a voice coach for the film. Also, he is brimming with precociousness that quickly becomes annoying. Though some of the visuals of the film are spectacular, other scenes are nearly goofy in their rendering of some of the fantasy worlds the film explores. A movie like this is going to be CGI heavy, and there are just some places that it doesn’t work very well…or the actors aren’t working well within it.
A WRINKLE IN TIME is a film that wants to be liked. Really badly. And there are some nice emotional moments here and there as the film attempts to offer its emotional prescriptive tonic. But the cosmic battle of good versus evil is never really explained or understood. Instead, the film opts for a lot of sermonizing against bullying, grief, and the greater human experience that all land with a thud. Like so many other recent Disney live-action films (TOMORROWLAND?) A WRINKLE IN TIME is far too broad and wide to bother to explain anything at all, and never offers enough personality and warmth to accept its emotional core.