Cast: Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Storm Reid
Director: Ava DuVernay
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: 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 realize it for herself. Making matters even worse is the baffling disappearance of Mr. Murry (Chris Pine), which torments Meg and has left her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) heartbroken. Charles Wallace introduces Meg and her fellow classmate Calvin (Levi Miller) to three celestial guides-Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling)-who have journeyed to Earth to help search for their father, and together they 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. To make it back home to Earth, Meg must look deep within herself and embrace her flaws to harness the strength necessary to defeat the darkness closing in on them.
Going into A Wrinkle in Time I was cautiously optimistic that this would add a new layer of storytelling and design to the children’s movie genre. Ava DuVernay has a long track record of critical acclaim as a director and Oprah Winfrey is one of the most iconic, polarizing figures in the last 30 years, so I knew this had the potential to make a positive splash if done currently. While A Wrinkle in Time’s message is in the right place and has beautiful special effects, many of the actors seem out-of-place in their roles and the story leaves much to be desired.
The film follows Meg Murray (Storm), her younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and their friend Calvin (Levi Miller), as they search the universe looking for her father (Chris Pine), who disappeared without warning four years ago. They are guided by three extraterrestrial lifeforms; Mrs. Which (Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Witherspoon), and Mrs. Who (Kaling) who help them master the various new worlds they explore and teach them about the danger their father is in. Starting with the positives, I thought visuals, specifically when they visit the planet Uriel, were spectacular. The spectrum of colors from the warm yellows and oranges to the earthy greens make you feel as though you are on this new planet with them and it does not look fake at all. Even when Mrs. Whatsit transforms into what I can only describe as a giant flying lettuce wrap, the transition appears naturally and looks like it belongs in this universe. Outside of the visuals, the message of the film is one that I think is important for younger viewers to listen to. There is a conversation between Mrs. Which and Meg about why Meg does not like herself, and Mrs. Which puts thing into perspective for her in a way that really made me think about life. Mrs. Which talks about all of the events that needed to happen to make Meg the person she is, and it really makes you question your own existence. That conversation is something that most younger viewers can identify with and help them through the tough times that they will inevitably go through. Speaking of that message, I appreciated how they were able to implement the IT’s evil powers into everyday life. The story explains that while at the center it harnesses all of evil, IT’s evil comes to Earth in the form of infecting others with negative thoughts and traits. This allows younger viewers to see others from those perspectives and help them understand why someone is the way they are, so I think younger viewers will learn to understand the difference between perception and reality.
Moving on to the film’s shortcomings, many of the actors were either miscast or misused in their roles. One of the main gripes I have is that this film wants us to focus on the three supporting women, but it is not their story. This is Meg’s story and those three guide her on it, so if you are going to this movie exclusively to watch Winfrey, you will be disappointed when she is only on-screen for about 30 minutes. Other than that, the casting of Zach Galifianakis as the Happy Medium seemed like it came out of nowhere. He is barely in the film, but he reminds me of a kid-friendly version of all of his previous roles. This would be fine if the film needed comic relief, but we already had that with Witherspoon, so maybe the film should have gone with a more calming presence closer to Winfrey’s character. In regards to the story, while the first two acts are serviceable, the final act drags and is borderline nonsensical. The characters are supposed to be smart, but they make incredibly dumb decisions that put them in unfortunate situations. I understand they are kids and they can be manipulated, but it does not take them very long to get into trouble. This leads to one of the main issues of the film, the lackluster climax. Not only is it incredibly clichéd, but if you think about it more, it is not anything that the three guides could not have done themselves. What makes me believe that some kid can do these incredible things, but that three omnipotent beings cannot? I understand why these events occurred, but it does not mean it makes sense from a storytelling perspective. Add this to some pretty laughable stunts and you getting a final sequence that really lets the film down.
Overall, what started out as a film with a lot of potential and a great message ended up struggling to close an otherwise interesting idea. All of these talented people are allowed a dud every once in a while, and unfortunately this is that dud. There were some interesting story concepts and amazing technical achievements, but ultimately A Wrinkle in Time just could not bring them together.
Overall Score: 4/10