A Wrinkle in Time (2018)
Directed by: Ava DuVernay
Premise: Based on the novel by Madeleine L’Engle. The father of a preteen girl mysteriously disappears during a physics experiment. The girl, her adopted brother, and a classmate join with three magical beings to find her father.
What Works: A Wrinkle in Time harkens back to an earlier era of filmmaking. Aside from animated pictures, there’s very little in the contemporary cinema marketplace that is geared specifically for families and children. A Wrinkle in Time is a throwback to the kinds of live action movies that Walt Disney Pictures used to make such as Mary Poppins and Babes in Toyland. Like those films, A Wrinkle in Time is earnest and good hearted and made specifically to be family entertainment. The movie has a light tone and a charmingly magical vibe that is distinctly different from other fantasy films being made at this moment. The core cast of A Wrinkle in Time is mostly quite good. The movie led by Storm Reid as Meg, a preteen girl whose father has disappeared. Meg possesses a complexity and nuance that is rarely found in young characters and Reid plays the part in a way that gives the fantasy a lot of credibility. Meg is accompanied by her precocious younger brother played by Deric McCabe. The young actor offers a lot of comic relief and injects energy into the movie. Also notable are Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon as two of the magical beings who accompany the children on their journey. They each have distinct personalities and bring a whimsical quality to the film.
What Doesn’t: For almost everything A Wrinkle in Time has going for it there is an equally damaging flaw. Chief among the film’s missteps is its visualization of the magical worlds. While beautifully rendered, the images are also artificial. The fantasy settings feel like movie sets or digitally created environments and a lot of them are derivative of other movies namely Avatar and The NeverEnding Story. The score to A Wrinkle in Time is quite good but the use of songs is obvious and clumsy. Oprah Winfrey is miscast in the role of the matriarchal magical being. As an actress she does not possess the gravitas for the part and when Winfrey delivers platitudes about self-actualization it just comes across as the same empty human potentiality nonsense that she has hawked on television for decades. And that reveals a key flaw of this movie; A Wrinkle in Time doesn’t really say much. There’s a lot of pretension but not much substance. That’s exacerbated by the clunky storytelling. The film suffers from a distinct lack of plot. Not a whole lot actually happens and there is little jeopardy or struggle in the characters’ journey. A lot of the movie is vague especially the villain, an abstract threat known as “the It” which never makes for a coherent heavy. Meg and her younger brother are joined in their journey by a neighbor played by Levi Miller. The young actor does fine but he has nothing to do. The character could be eliminated from the story without losing anything. The movie comes across very padded with unnecessarily protracted sequences and it doesn’t come to a satisfying or meaningful conclusion.
Bottom Line: It is nice to see Disney attempt to revive an important part of its cinematic history with live action family-friendly filmmaking but A Wrinkle in Time is rarely much better than mediocre. It’s well intended but clumsily executed.
Episode: #690 (March 18, 2018)