Along with The Phantom Tollbooth
and The House with a Clock in Its Walls
, A Wrinkle in Time
is a book from which no elementary school kid in the seventies could get away. Everyone on the playground at the time was reading it, whether it was assigned in school or not. It has taken more than fifty years, but A Wrinkle in Time
is now a major motion picture.
A Wrinkle in Time
is about a young girl named Meg Murry (12 Years a Slave
's Storm Reid) whose father, a renowned physicist (Chris Pine from Hell or High Water
), disappeared while experimenting with time and space travel. Meg's little brother, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe from Stephanie
), meets a trio of mysterious ladies named Mrs. Whatsit (Wild
's Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling from "The Office"), and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey, who is Oprah), who say that they can help find Meg's father. They transport Meg, Charles Wallace, and one of Meg's schoolmates named Calvin (Pan
's Levi Miller) to a faraway planet where they say Meg's father is located, but in order to bring him home, the kids will have to face an insurmountable evil known as The It (David Oyelowo from Selma
There are a lot of factors working in favor of A Wrinkle in Time
. It's directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay (Selma
). It's adapted from Madeleine L'Engle's classically famous novel by acclaimed screenwriters Jennifer Lee (Frozen
) and Jeff Stockwell (The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys
). Its three adult leads are all recognizable and highly bankable stars, while its three child leads are all talented newcomers. So why is A Wrinkle in Time
To put it bluntly, it's a slog. The simple story that is so effective as a children's novel is made overly complex in the film. It's essentially a typical Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey (times three, as it applies to all of the child protagonists), but the fun and adventure gets bogged down in faux-philosophy and overly-expository dialogue. To say that A Wrinkle in Time
moves slowly is an understatement; most of the film is padded by long fits of existential drivel or fantastical visual effects that have little to do with the actual story. Even the young adult-sounding songs by artists like Sia and Demi Lovato that attempt to tie it all together are annoying.
Remember those scenes in The Lovely Bones
that take place in the afterlife, with Saoirse Ronan roaming and dancing around a surreal and ever-changing landscape? Most of A Wrinkle in Time
is like that, only without the emotional element that keeps the viewer engaged in The Lovely Bones
. The world in which the kids end up in A Wrinkle in Time
would go well with a soundtrack by Pink Floyd. It's like an acid trip over the rainbow. And it is fun to watch - for a while. But the scenes drag on and on, so therefore, the whole movie drags on and on.
There may be an audience out there for A Wrinkle in Time
, but it's probably not going to be the one for which the filmmakers ostensibly made the movie. Kids will be bored stiff by it. Their parents, who remember the original book, will be interested at first, but even they'll end up being put to sleep. A Wrinkle in Time
is just a slickly-made snoozer with very little impact. It's a swing-and-a-miss. But, on the bright side, seventies kids can still look forward to the rumored film adaptations of The Phantom Tollbooth
and The House with a Clock in its Walls
that are coming up.
The most impressive aspect of A Wrinkle in Time
is its visual effects. They're just as slick and seamless as one would expect from a big-budget Disney movie. To no one's surprise, most of the otherworldly scenes look to have been green screened, with anamorphic flowers and dizzying stone walkways surrounding the characters at every turn. Some of it is purposely corny - Oprah spends about a third of her screen time as a 50 foot tall giant, while Reese Witherspoon turns into something that looks like a piece of flying lettuce to transport the kids around - but much of it is also dark and disturbing. The movie does, after all, deal with warriors of light fighting the forces of evil. Anyway, the visual effects in A Wrinkle in Time
are very well-done. They're hardly enough to save the movie from its own mediocrity, but the effects are as good of a reason to check out A Wrinkle in Time
as you're bound to find.