Plot: Alex Murry (Chris Pine) believed he could bend the very nature of time and space, through a phenomenon known as tesseracts, which could allow instantaneous travel over light years of distance. Of course, he lacked the hard science to back his claims and as such, wasn’t taken seriously by his peers. In the middle of his research, he vanished without a trace and was never found. His family struggles to move on in his absence, especially his adopted daughter Meg (Storm Reid), who feels out of place and unable to find herself. But when her little brother introduces her to an odd woman named Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), a chain of events is set into motion that calls on Meg to find the light inside herself. But even as she navigates distant worlds in search of her father, can Meg rise to the challenge?
Entertainment Value: One of the most popular and enduring children’s books of all time, A Wrinkle in Time was first adapted by Disney with a made for television movie that met with a cool reception. But this second spin is much more ambitious, with a massive budget and a cast of well known talent that includes Oprah Winfrey, with her built in, loyal audience. Despite the big budget, big names, and big ad campaign, the movie failed to spark the interest of most viewers and for a Disney movie, that is an odd, unexpected turn of events. A good amount of changes were made from the book, to take out the numerous religious references and simplify some of the more esoteric elements, despite the book’s status as an almost universal classic. Ava DuVernay’s direction seems to favor shiny visuals and forced sentiment over narrative and character depth, which is a real shame. The script has some good intentions, but if you don’t give your characters depth and a chance to develop, the emotional beats come off as unearned, which is the case here. The visuals are impressive at times and I appreciate the attempt to build this interesting journey, but most of the visual effects are lackluster and some are laughable at best. I love creative production design, but this doesn’t seem imaginative to me and the visuals aren’t organic to the material, so it just seems like eccentric costumes and generic fantasy visuals.
The movie has a lineup of big name talent involved, with Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, and Reese Witherspoon installed as our guides. While Witherspoon is fun to watch, Kaling is given little to do and has some cringe level lines, such as not only quoting Chris Tucker in a philosophical context, but using the wrong word in a one word quote. She just mugs for the camera and while I’m sure she did her best, the script just fails her at every turn. Winfrey is fine, but again, is given little to do besides recite quasi-inspirational bursts of dialogue. Zach Galifianakis and Michael Pena do what they can with rather thin characters, while the child actors are likely the best performers, as they have a little more to work with. But overall, the acting in A Wrinkle in Time feels campy and over the top, as if low level motivational speakers were trying to inspire children with strings of cliches. All in all, I think A Wrinkle in Time is a total miss that tears out the soul of a timeless book and hopes that famous faces and colorful CGI will distract us from how hollow this adaptation is.