Meg Murry (Storm Reid) is a typical middle school student struggling with issues of self-worth who is desperate to fit in. As the daughter of two world-renowned physicists, she is intelligent and uniquely gifted, as is Meg’s younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), but she has yet to realise it for herself. Making matters even worse is the baffling disappearance of her father (Chris Pine), which torments Meg and has left her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) heartbroken for the past 4 years.
Charles Wallace introduces Meg and her fellow classmate Calvin (Levi Miller) to three celestial guides – The Mrs’ – who were drawn to the Murry’s home to help find their lost father. Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) along with Meg, Calvin and Charles Wallace set off on their formidable quest. Traveling via a wrinkling of time and space known as ‘tessering’, they are soon transported to worlds beyond their imagination where they must confront a powerful evil – The It. To make it back home to Earth, Meg must look deep within herself and embrace her deepest flaws to harness the strength necessary to defeat the darkness closing in on them and the missing Mr. Murry.
Directed by Ava DuVernay (Selma), the film’s source material is based on the original 1962 novel A Wrinkle In Time – the first of the Time Quintet series by Madeleine L’Engle. Taking on a beloved piece of many of our childhoods would have been a tough ask for any director, and while DuVernay does her best to steady the ship, it seems the menacing presence of an over-zealous production team meant that she wasn’t given too much opportunity to rise above the CGI and cringey pop-cultural references.
Quite simply, the film is a mess. It’s kind of like one of those fancy, over-the-top doughnuts that seem to be everywhere right now – you know the ones that are three-stories stacked high with Freddos and marshmallows and stuffed with nutella but don’t actually taste like anything when you bite into it. That’s what A Wrinkle In Time is like. A big budget epic with a stellar cast, and nothing to show for it.
DeVernay and team do their best to take a stab at classic tween issues like bullying, nerdiness, body-image and even parental separation, but these hints at something deeper are completely buried by special effects and superficial attempts at world-building to presumably promote the incoming line of action figures and dolls.
It’s all sizzle, no steak. The production value for example, is insanely high. The makeup/costume budget alone must have been astronomical, so the project clearly had some cash to play with. And it’s a shame, too, because had they thrown a couple of bucks at the writing team, we may have ended up with something slightly more compelling.
It’s an even bigger shame because the film is so wasteful of the tremendous talents it attracted to the roles. With such a spectacular and practiced cast you would think at least one of them would be able to redeem the trainwreck. But no. The performances are plastic and unconvincing, not to mention patronising. Sure, it’s a kids’ flick – but that doesn’t mean that the characters can’t have emotional or even literal intelligence built in.
Case-in-point, the three main fantastical characters played by Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling struggle woefully to create the necessary chemistry and as a result, the whole thing feels insincere. This however, may be more about the lazy adaptation than the cast’s acting chops. The book, for instance, is so rich in detail and narrative substance. The worlds and mythology of the original canon are complex, sophisticated and thorough – and in classic Disney style, they chose to ignore almost all of that.
Here, fans of the book will be disappointed as their fantasy is reduced to watered-down orange juice. Not only is the story given a superficial makeover, there are huge, gaping differences from the original narrative that die-hards will not be cool with. So, if you were hoping at least for a trip down nostalgia lane, then you’re plum outta luck.
A Wrinkle In Time is a classic case of an over-produced, under-directed Hollywood churn-and-burner. It lacks personality and despite the best efforts of DuVernay and her illustrious players, seems disingenuous. Anyone with kids knows how expensive it is to take the whole fam to the flicks, so this time you could save yourself the time and cash and just watch the trailer online – it gives you as much as the actual film does anyway.