A Wrinkle in Time: Film Review

As I was watch­ing Dis­ney’s lat­est fan­tasy film “A Wrin­kle in Time,” there was a part of me think­ing this was­n’t go­ing to end up in what I like to call the “Live-Ac­tion Dis­ney Big-Bud­get Bar­rel.” That’s the do­main of Dis­ney movies that, de­spite their huge bud­get and po­ten­tial, failed to de­liver. Past ex­am­ples in­clude “John Carter,” “The Lone Ranger” (which never had po­ten­tial) and, most re­cently, “To­mor­row­land.”

Some­times you just hate be­ing right about cer­tain things.

Af­ter the sud­den dis­ap­pear­ance of her sci­en­tist fa­ther Alex (Chris Pine), Meg Murry (Storm Reid) goes on an in­cred­i­ble jour­ney through time and space with her younger brother Charles Wal­lace (De­ric Mc­Cabe) and her new friend Calvin (Levi Miller of “Pan”). The three search for her fa­ther along­side three as­tral trav­el­ers: Mrs. Which (Oprah Win­frey), Mrs. What­sit (Reese With­er­spoon) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling).

Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, Zach Galifianakis, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Levi Miller in A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

The film it­self is based on Madeleine L’En­gle’s 1962 novel of the same name, and I ac­tu­ally re­mem­ber read­ing a lit­tle bit of it back in sev­enth grade. I had no clue what was go­ing on while read­ing it. There was a TV movie on ABC back in 2003, which I also kind of fondly re­mem­ber.

But when Dis­ney an­nounced this new ver­sion, at the time it sounded like a cool idea. And un­like some peo­ple, I judged this one of my most an­tic­i­pated movies of 2018, and the fact that there was­n’t much hype for the film was just sad, to be hon­est. It was­n’t just be­cause of the trail­ers, but also be­cause di­rec­tor Ava Du­Ver­nay’s (“Selma”, “13th“) name was at­tached to this pro­ject. She’s the first African-Amer­i­can fe­male di­rec­tor to di­rect a live-ac­tion film with a bud­get over $100 mil­lion. That’s re­ally an ac­com­plish­ment right there.

But, just like a crush’s re­jec­tion, even with all that ac­com­plish­ment, “A Wrin­kle in Time” is a ma­jor dis­ap­point­ment.

Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Storm Reid, Levi Miller, and Deric McCabe in A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

Al­most through­out the film, you can re­ally see that Du­Ver­nay put an ef­fort into por­tray­ing the sto­ry­telling. But it falls apart right from the start be­cause of the lack of imag­i­na­tion to be found at any point. There’s just some­thing about the story, as a whole, that feels jum­bled and con­fus­ing. Jen­nifer Lee (“Frozen”) and Jeff Stock­well (“Bridge to Ter­abithia”) adapted the novel, and it feels like el­e­ments were miss­ing and changed from the book (and this is com­ing from some­one who does­n’t even re­mem­ber what hap­pened in the book). Some el­e­ments feel rushed, like the sud­den friend­ship be­tween Meg and Calvin or the in­tro­duc­tions to the Mrs.’s. Both of these events were un­der­de­vel­oped. The film just over­all was rushed out for a 109-minute run­time.

Even for some­one who does­n’t un­der­stand com­plex sci­ence, the movie does­n’t make any log­i­cal sense. We’re sup­posed to feel like we’re on this mag­i­cal ad­ven­ture with Meg and the rest, but it turned out to be un­event­ful and ab­solutely ten­sion­less. Com­bine “To­mor­row­land” and “The Nev­erend­ing Story” to­gether and this is what you get.

While there are mo­ments meant to be touch­ing and emo­tional, re­volv­ing around Meg and her fam­ily, they  did­n’t quite get there for me. I could­n’t shed a sin­gle tear dur­ing these scenes.

Storm Reid and Levi Miller in A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

The movie has a fan­tas­tic en­sem­ble, and it’s a shame that they ended up here, with such weak char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment. Reid is the break­out per­former in this, and she pro­vides a well-bal­anced per­for­mance as the pro­tag­o­nist find­ing her con­fi­dence and strength within her­self. I also en­joyed Pine, when he did show up.

The as­pect that re­ally looked in­ter­est­ing was the Mrs.’s, and sadly, they don’t get to do much, prob­a­bly due to some poor writ­ing. Per­son­ally, I think Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis (The Happy Medium), Michael Peña (Red) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Dr. Kate Murry) should’ve been pre­sent more; their screen time was very lim­ited.

I feel slightly mean say­ing this about a child ac­tor, but Mc­Cabe’s per­for­mance as Charles Wal­lace was ter­ri­ble. Most of his di­a­logue was cringe-wor­thy, es­pe­cially com­ing from such an in­tel­li­gent char­ac­ter. And the thing is: he’s in most of the movie.

But there are pos­i­tives amid all these neg­a­tives. The score, by Ramin Djawadi, was ex­cel­lent. Over­all, “A Wrin­kle in Time” is a vi­su­ally gor­geous and col­or­ful film, and aside from those men­tioned above, most of the per­for­mances are very good. The CGI was well-done, (the flower gos­sipers in par­tic­u­lar,) though it did feel overused and un­fin­ished dur­ing some scenes.

Storm Reid, Levi Miller, and Deric McCabe in A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

Would I say this would be a good movie for kids un­der 10? Look­ing at the mes­sage of the film, I would say kind of. But it’s also a film that they will get bored with, and that goes same with adults.

From the per­spec­tive of some­one who was re­ally hop­ing for this to be great and to prove the naysay­ers wrong, it’s eas­ily the biggest let­down of the year so far. “A Wrin­kle in Time” can be per­fectly de­scribed as an amaz­ing ab­stract paint­ing that was ac­ci­den­tally left it out in the rain and ended up as a mess. I truly feel bad for a great di­rec­tor like Du­Ver­nay helm­ing some­thing this huge from a ma­jor stu­dio. But this adap­ta­tion prob­a­bly won’t con­nect with au­di­ence mem­bers like it in­tended. Suf­fice it to say that it’s not go­ing to be Dis­ney’s next big thing.

While “A Wrin­kle in Time” is beau­ti­fully made and has a well-mean­ing cast, Ava Du­Ver­nay’s adap­ta­tion did­n’t live up to the po­ten­tial, mak­ing it a vi­sion­ary, yet dis­ap­point­ing, mess. Grade: C-

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