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Review: A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time
5 10

PLOT: A young girl (Storm Reid) and her brother (Deric McCabe) discover that their missing astrophysicist father (Chris Pine) actually got lost after discovering a way to travel the galaxy with his mind, and with the help of three Astral travelers, Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) they set out to find him.

REVIEW: It breaks my heart to say that Ava DuVernay’s A WRINKLE IN TIME isn’t the slam-dunk we all thought it would be. A stretch for DuVernay, following her gritty MLK story SELMA, and her underrated Sundance hit, MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, A WRINKLE IN TIME is a big-budget family adventure that adapts Madeleine L'Engle’s classic children’s novel – a book many considered unadaptable. In this case, they may have been right.

Despite a top notch cast and DuVernay’s clear passion for the material, right from the get-go, A WRINKLE IN TIME feels off. Having not read the book since I was very young, I’ll admit I remember almost nothing about it – so I can’t say whether or not the film is faithful. However, a movie should stand on its own, but A WRINKLE IN TIME moves so fast through exposition and some pretty heady themes, such as the ability to fold the universe, I was lost within twenty minutes. It took me awhile to figure out what exactly happened to Pine’s character, with it looking like he was unwillingly taken on his jaunt across the universe, but when the kids do it they do so willingly. It’s explained he became a prisoner of “The It”, which is a universe-spanning evil, but even here he seems to be able to travel a bit if needed. What exactly is going on?

This aspect frustrated me, as did the constant new-age platitudes, with the three Astral guides constantly giving Storm Reid’s Meg positive reinforcement, something that’s charming at first but gets to be too much. Oprah Winfrey almost seems to be playing herself here as Mrs. Which, giving constant boosts of encouragement to our heroes, but at a certain point Meg should have been left on her own to figure things out. She does, eventually, wind up on her own inside “The It”, but by this point she’s been built up so much there’s absolutely no suspense left – as she’s so clearly able to handle whatever evil throws her way. Meanwhile, a third kid character, played by Levi Miller, is totally extraneous to the plot and serves no purpose whatsoever.

Which brings me to another big sticking point for me – there’s no sense of danger. When you think back on the classic kid’s movies, TIME BANDITS, LABYRINTH and THE NEVERENDING STORY, you’ll notice that they all had real darkness in them. WRINKLE feels too safe, although that might be a criticism best leveled at Disney, who are clearly not in the market for an edgier adaptation. It’ll be interesting to see if the young audiences this is aimed at like it.

The VFX work also leaves something to be desired, with especially bad green screen work, something more-and-more common these days, even in otherwise amazing films like BLACK PANTHER. It’s a tool studios lean on too much, and some more exterior shooting off a sound-stage might have made the universe its set in feel real.

However, A WRINKLE IN TIME isn’t all bad, with Storm Reid a likable heroine, and Deric McCabe fun as her precocious brother. Chris Pine is good in his smallish role, as is the always reliable Gugu Mbatha-Raw, although the trio of travelers are a mixed bag. Mindy Kaling’s character only speaks in platitudes, which gets old fast, while Reese Witherspoon is quite campy. Of them all, Oprah fares the best, bringing gravitas to the part.

Overall, A WRINKLE IN TIME is perfectly watchable, even if it gets annoying how all the big, emotional set-pieces are constantly undercut by power anthems off the soundtrack album. The acting is good and certainly the filmmaker’s heart was in the right place. It’s an interesting misfire from a director who’s still among the most interesting working today – and as always I’m eager to see what she does next.

Source: JoBlo.com

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