"A Wrinkle in Time" is a complete waste of time. Based on
the very popular children's book of the same title by Madeleine L'Engle, director Ava DuVernay's fractured adaptation is almost immediately less than thrilling.
As I am known to rant, it's usually about the writing. The screenplay by Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell leaves big holes in the narrative, creating a disjointed experience for those of us not familiar with the book.
One has to assume Ms. L'Engle better explains scientist, Mr. Murry's (Chris Pine), strong desire to "shake hands with the universe", leaving his also-scientist wife, Mrs. Murry (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and two children behind. Four years later, Meg (Storm Reid) and her genius little brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), are still struggling with the fact that their father abandoned them.
Meg begins acting out at school --- cue mean girls who mercilessly pick on Meg. Sigh. Further cue handsome, popular boy, Calvin (Levi Miller), who is determined to help her.
Meg and Charles Wallace's urgent need to find their father is exacerbated by the strange and untimely appearance of a bizarre character named Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), who shows up, unannounced, at the family's front door one rainy, stormy night. She seems to be there to check out Meg, because she already knows Charles Wallace, and we never find out how that happened. Mrs. Murry, though somewhat alarmed, does nothing to prevent her children from collaborating with the eccentric Mrs. Whatsit in the future.
The next day, Charles Wallace takes Meg and Calvin to meet Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling). She speaks only in famous quotes. Together, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and the three children tesseract (the process of transporting physically) and meet a gigantic Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) in another universe.
The three celestial beings attempt to school the kids in the art of self preservation and the tenets of life --- be strong and believe in the power of the universe while watching out for the evil which is growing ever more pervasive. Then they send them off in search of Mr. Murry, because their powers are fading. Huh? What? Really?
"A Wrinkle in Time" is so utterly uninspiring. Winfrey has been tapped to play the majestic, maternal figure Mrs. Which, expanding on the qualities that made her the queen of TV talk shows. She, along with her garish makeup, flashy outfits and wigs are overwhelming at best. I have loved Winfrey in her many other roles, but here her words of wisdom come off as preachy, instead of rich nuggets meant to help and inspire. Some of her points have true validity --- like fear begets anger and being angry can be hurtful to yourself and others. Unfortunately, these important messages get lost in the mishigas that is Lee's and Stockwell's screenplay.
Witherspoon and Kaling try their best to be perky, but again the script fails them. All three women are adorned with colorful, sometimes wacky costumes and makeup laced with glitter. But all that sparkle does nothing to enhance these lifeless characterizations which must have been better portrayed in L'Engle's novel.
Reid, McCabe and Miller are also hamstrung by this writing, especially their dialogue. All three actors make a brave effort at rising above the mediocrity, but it's simply not enough. Reid is quite sweet and charming as Meg, looking genuinely annoyed at having to deal with hair compliments from Calvin. The two try to establish true affection for one another, but the chemistry is absent.
And although McCabe is cute enough when he's the innocent little brother, his evil act spirals out of control, a fault of DuVernay's. And honestly, halfway through the movie, I couldn't stand hearing the name Charles Wallace one more time.
Now, if David were writing this, you could take it for what it's worth --- or simply dismiss it --- but, I am telling you, "A Wrinkle in Time" is not worth the time to see it. Ms. DuVernay, whose work I greatly admire, along with her cast and crew, has done a disservice to other women who may have the opportunity to direct a live-action film with a budget over $100 million.
"A Wrinkle in Time" fails to capture the audience, draw them in and tell a memorable story. And it is definitely NOT suitable for young children due to a few too many rather frightening sequences involving Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin. Seriously --- take a pass.
Opinion: Don't Bother!
Jeanne and I rarely talk after a screening, but I can usually tell when she likes a movie or not. In the case of "A Wrinkle in Time", I wasn't sure, but when the closing credits started to roll, and she said "Let's go!", I breathed a sigh of relief because I knew then she didn't like it any better than I. In fact, we essentially agreed that this latest effort from director Ava DuVernay is too scary for little kids, and too inept for adults.
It's hard to imagine that DuVernay, who gave us such stellar films as "Selma" and the documentary "13th", was actually the force behind
"A Wrinkle in Time". The movie features Mr. Murry, a father/husband (Chris Pine) who disappears for four years through a small time warp, and yet --- SPOILER ALERT: when he eventually returns to his family, I felt not a scintilla of empathy or any other emotion --- nary a drop.
One might say that this film portrays how one small blip away from normalcy can alter a person's life immeasurably, thus speaking to the fragility and mortality of humankind. One might also say that this film promotes so many cliched themes --- love triumphs over evil, stand up to bullies, never lose faith --- they're too numerous to count.
"A Wrinkle in Time" even dares to compare the daughter, Meg, (Storm Reid) to historic titans like Gandhi, Einstein and Schindler. Whether that notion is from the novel by Madeleine L'Engle, or devised by screenwriters Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell, is irrelevant. It's just inane.
As Meg's celestial protectors, stalwarts Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling star as Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who --- sounds like an Abbott and Costello routine --- in ridiculous makeup and costumes. Their dialogue is laughable, and they deliver their lines with zero conviction. Zach Galifianakis appears briefly as Happy Medium, Michael Pena is a character called Red, and David Oyelowo is The It --- none of whom I cared about.
The overall acting is mediocre --- again, it's the writing, as Jeanne always notes. Meg's younger brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) at one point is inhabited by an evil force akin to Linda Blair's character in "The Exorcist", but without the profanity or rotating head. Neither young McCabe nor Ms. Reid are particularly believable or sympathetic in their quest for their dad. Only Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Mrs. Murry is believable.
I can't recommend this film on any level. It's not worth even a small wrinkle of your time --- not very clever, but true.
Opinion: Don't Bother!