Dan's Review: Simple truths lost in "A Wrinkle in Time"
Mar 09, 2018 01:09PM ● Published by Dan Metcalf
Mindy Kaling, Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon in A Wrinkle in Time - © 2018 Disney.
A Wrinkle in Time (Disney)
Rated PG for thematic elements and some peril.
Starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Storm Reid, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Chris Pine, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Peña, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, André Holland, Rowan Blanchard, David Oyelowo (voice), Bellamy Young, Conrad Roberts, Yvette Cason, Will McCormack, Daniel MacPherson.
Written by Jennifer Lee, based on the book by Madeleine L'Engle.
Directed by Ana DuVernay.
Don’t mess with Oprah. The queen of media didn’t achieve her status without demanding plenty of attention and creating legions of adoring fans by accident. What Oprah wants, Oprah gets. As such, she usually doesn’t get involved in film projects that she doesn’t also produce. It was surprising (to me, at least) that her name does not appear in the credits of A Wrinkle in Time (a loose adaptation of Medeleine L’Engle’s beloved 1962 young adult book) as a producer but make no mistake – this is an Oprah movie. She’s the star, and you will not forget it, even if the movie is mostly forgettable.
It’s the story of Meg, a girl whose father, Dr. Alex Murry (Chris Pine) disappears into a time-space continuum named “the tesseract.’ Bullied at school, Meg and her adopted brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) seek understanding, as their mother, Dr. Kate Murry (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) tries to keep the family together. Despite peer pressure from Meg’s bullies, a young popular man named Calvin (Levi Miller) shows interest in her at the exact time three strange visitors appear, offering hope to find her father. The astral travelers are Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs. Which (Oprah). Soon, the children are whisked away through the tesseract and land on a strange planet where Meg’s dad also passed. They also gain knowledge from ‘The Happy Medium’ (Zach Galifianakis), who reveals that Meg’s dad has been taken inside the planet Camazotz, where “The IT” holds him hostage. Whatsit, Who and Which offer assistance and advice to help the children reach Camazozt but cannot enter the IT’s presence because there is no light there. Once inside, the IT takes control of Charles Wallace’s body using the boy to show cruelty toward his sister. Meg finds her father, but must summon all her love to free her brother from the clutches of the IT.
A Wrinkle in Time is visually ambitious, with lots of colors and huge special effects (one of which if to make Oprah’s character appear gigantic next to the other astral travelers). There are lessons to be learned about courage, hope and the power of love, even though most of Madeleine L’Engle’s religious meaning is replaced by homage to contemporary progressives, like Frida Kahlo, Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela, etc. While these lessons are more glaringly obvious than subtle, it’s the chaotic story structure and weak third act that makes A Wrinkle in Time barely good enough for a direct-to-video children’s movie, albeit one that most kids would regard like eating healthy vegetables (It’s good for you, so eat it!). It seems director Ava DuVernay and screenwriter Jennifer Lee were more focused on force-feeding universal truths to kids rather than making a movie kids can identify with.
Then, there’s Oprah. How could we forget about Oprah? Yes, she’s larger than life, and gets top billing for a role that was created as supporting to the trio of sage travelers, rather than their queen. She’s also given all the “wisdom” dialogue, even though Reese Witherspoon steals every scene involving the three women. A Wrinkle in Time is supposed to be a story about kids who find their place in the Universe and yet, I can’t help but think, oh yeah, it’s that Oprah movie.
A Wrinkle in TIme Trailer