“A Wrinkle in Time”- Movie Review

While I’m well aware of the existence of Madeleine L’Engle’s novel, “A Wrinkle in Time”, I’d be lying if I said it was an important part of my childhood. I never read the book, neither for school or out of sheer interest. What I do know of it comes only from commercials for the 2003 made-for-television movie that popped up in one of my Disney VHS tapes. So I went into Ava DuVernay’s big-budget adaptation completely blind. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and because of that I never had the distraction of constantly comparing and contrasting the film’s purity to the source material. What I hoped for was an interesting adventure. Unfortunately, that’s not what I got.

The film stars Storm Reid as Meg Murry, an intelligent young girl still reeling from the disappearance of her father (Chris Pine) four years ago. One day, hope for his return arrives in the form of three mysterious beings- Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey)- who inform her of his capture on a distant planet by a dark universal force known as the It. With the help of a classmate (Levi Miller) and her prodigal younger brother (Deric McCabe), Meg embarks on a quest that’ll take her through the oddities of time and space in order to save her father and everything she’s ever known.

While A Wrinkle in Time is certainly ambitious and has sprinkles of visual and emotional splendor, it isn’t nearly as awe-inspiring as it thinks it is. The fault isn’t in its style. Ava DuVernay’s vision is very beautiful. It’s colorful, it’s interesting, and it’s well-shot. She manages to capture some of the darker elements of the story and maintain the film’s emotional core, that being the relationship between Meg and her father. The chemistry between Storm Reid and Chris Pine feels one hundred percent genuine, and their interactions come off so naturally that you instantly believe them as father and daughter.

Also not to be overlooked is Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Meg’s mother. It’ll be easy to write off her performance seeing how she’s in the movie so little, but she’s great with what she’s given. The three angels (at least that’s what I’m assuming they are) are played well. Each of their personalities are what you’d expect from a whimsical trio: Witherspoon as the excitable quirky one, Mindy Kaling is the more subdued intellectual one (though her character quirk of speaking in nothing but quotes does get annoying after a while), and Oprah as the grand all-knowing one plays pretty much how you’d expect it would.

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Some performances, however, miss the mark completely. As I mentioned earlier, Meg doesn’t go on this journey alone. She’s accompanied by a love interest and her younger brother, and neither of them turns in a good performance. Admittedly, I feel really bad for criticizing child actors because I can tell they’re trying their best. Acting isn’t an easy profession. It takes a lot of focus and hard-work. But if their performance is a big part of the problem, I can’t just ignore it. The very least I can do is try not to judge too harshly.

Miller does exude charm here and there, but for the most part his acting comes off as bland and disinterested. It doesn’t help that his character is so criminally underwritten and the lines he’s forced to deliver as so minimal and drained of personality that I had a hard time understanding why he needed to be there in the first place. He really doesn’t do anything besides complimenting Meg’s hair and falling off a giant flying cabbage pancake creature thing at one point (if you’ve seen it you know what I’m talking about). McCabe, on the other hand, is a different story. Unlike Miller, his presence has more of a purpose. Apart from being related to the lead character, he’s also incredibly smart, thus in a story knee-deep in science fiction elements, he has more to contribute. Something about his performance just didn’t bode well with me. The portrayal reminded me of a young Sheldon Cooper type with the quirky campiness you’d find in an episode of Fuller House. That’s the best way I can describe it. And when his character experiences a switch toward the end, it comes off as more awkward than effective. Again, I give McCabe points for giving it his all. It’s just that particular kind of child performance doesn’t do anything for me.

With that being said, the film’s most glaring issue lies in its writing. Jennifer Lee- the same writer/director of Disney’s Frozen– penned the screenplay, and while she incorporates substance and a good message, a lot of the movie feels disjointed. At times the writing is solid, then at others it comes across very awkwardly. Because the film is so preoccupied with the fantastical and abstract elements of the story, it neglects the chance for richer character development. So what we’re left with is something that looks and sounds nice, but ultimately isn’t strong enough to be as grand as it wants to be.

Despite my qualms with the film, I understand why people can grow to love A Wrinkle in Time. The fantasy element is beautifully portrayed, it has a good message, and the father-daughter relationship is genuinely powerful. If that’s all you’re looking for, then you’ll probably enjoy it just fine. Personally, I need much more than that. I admire what it’s trying to do, but in the end A Wrinkle in Time bores more than it captivates.

Cosmic Grade: 2.5/5 Stars

 

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